There is a certain train of thought that suggests that as a member becomes well established on your community, that you should give them more rope when it comes to your guidelines and greater flexibility regarding them. In fact, it’s more than a train of thought, it’s a pressure.
As someone becomes more of a presence on your community, garners greater influence and becomes someone that you hopefully like a lot, the relationship can become more complicated than it was at the start, when they were new.
What I try to give my veteran members is more benefit of the doubt. For example, if you are brand new, you join and your first post is a link to some random site, your post is gone. We don’t know you and we don’t give you the benefit of the doubt. If we did, our forums would be full of those posts. But, for a veteran member to share a link, when they already know the community doesn’t tolerate spam, we’re more willing to give that member the benefit of the doubt, as long as it doesn’t appear that they are affiliated with the link.
I suppose that I am also more candid with our veteran members, as we have that built up rapport. By now, a majority of them know me to an extent and, whether or not they like me, they have some idea of what I am about.
But, no matter what, the guidelines of our community still apply. We remove contributions from veteran members regularly and I have banned the top poster on my forums. Guidelines do not really loosen for veteran members. Quite the opposite, I expect more of veteran members – I expect them to be more aware of their contributions and of the impact of their words. That is a general expectation of life. You don’t expect less of the people with experience – you expect more. Veteran community members have an important part to play in the site’s hierarchy.
They have influence over other members, especially new members, because they are one of the examples that people draw from when they decide what is and isn’t appropriate behavior on the community. It is important to me that they take this seriously. Sometimes they don’t. In extreme cases, where I notice a trend of poor behavior, I won’t hesitate to have a conversation with the member to explain to them the impact that their words can have and what my expectations are.
The responses in those conversations can be mixed. I would like to think that, more often than not, the member gets it on some level and makes changes. I’ve had these conversations lead to a complete reversal of behavior that worked out very well. But, of course, not everyone gets it. Some veteran members grow a sense of entitlement and it is those members who may find themselves banned.
I believe in being proactive and not in trying to coddle or beat around the bush with members. If I see an issue, I face it. If I see that trend of poor behavior, I address it. Because, from that point, they are either going to get better or they are going to be banned – that is the path they are already heading down. So, on my end, it’s an attempt to keep them on the site and to help them understand the power that they have as an individual, in guiding others to better contribute to a community that they have derived so much value from.
How seriously your veteran members take their responsibility can have a direct impact on the overall quality of your community.