As your forum grows it is only natural that you become proud of those ever increasing membership figures. When you started off you were getting maybe five new members in a week, whereas now you are seeing fifty new members each day. Look a little closer though, and you may find these figures to be misleading.
Over at the Just Chat message boards, I was seeing huge membership growth each day – however as you may have noticed with your own forums, these members rarely post. A little investigation will reveal why – they are not legitimate users.
As I mentioned in a previous article about keeping on top of spammers, they can take over your forum if you do not keep on top of them. Even if you employ all the spam defences in the world, some will always get through the net. You may find that many of these ‘suspicious’ new members do not even post – either way, they are not contributing to your forum so I would argue that they should be deleted.
Over at the Just Chat message boards, I delete all members who fail to activate their account within seven days of registering. Similarly, members who do not make a post within three months from joining are also deleted. This ensures the message boards database is reasonably accurate when it describes the number of members we have.
Some forum administrators may argue against this – perhaps they see a nice healthy membership count as an encouragement for new visitors to join. As I mentioned in my post on whether you should fake your forum statistics, I always believe honesty is the best policy.
You want your users to trust you if you want them to join your site and become active members of your community. Believe it or not, some potential new members may decide to check out your members list to see how active your forum is – pages and pages of members with zero posts is hardly encouragement to join.
I believe that you should forgo your own ego and ensure your membership statistics are as accurate as possible – as long as you make any membership conditions clear to members when they join (I include the information in the auto-generated emails), and that any limitations are set to a reasonable time frame, you can ensure that each member of your site is a genuine, committed and valuable user.