A forum is established to serve a community of people who have an interest in a particular area, it is a place for people to exchange ideas, thoughts and comments and a place where people can discuss things which they find interesting or important.
As an admin or moderator of a community your primary responsibility is to facilitate the conversation, to moderate the conversation and to keep a watchful eye out. For the sake of this post I will be using admin or moderator interchangeably. As a moderator it is important that you always remember that the site you are moderating is only as good as the people that use it. The whole reason for you being a moderator is due to the demand on the site by the members.
I have all too often been to sites which are moderated by megalomaniacs, people who think that having the status of administrator or moderator immediately makes them better than everyone else. It is important to embed a friendly ethos within your site and to make it an open place where moderators are seen as people who are there not only to enforce rules but to facilitate the general conversation and to participate openly in the conversation. As a moderator your postings do carry extra weight, it is important that you set the example for which you want your community to adhere to.
A moderator or an administrator should always approach a member with an open mind. If you have set out rules which have not been followed then yes it is your responsibility to enforce these, but you must remember to do so in a positive manner. Approach your members in a friendly way. Remember to explain the reasons for you contacting them, if you must edit a post leave a polite reason. Never publicly humiliate a member of your community.
Every member, be it a regular user or a moderator is entitled to their opinions, a strong debate in the forums is a good thing, but there is a fine line between a strong debate and a heated argument. A moderator must recognise the difference. Whenever giving out any warnings, whenever moderating any member always be discrete. It is never a good idea to make an example of a member.
Remember to always be helpful, specifically when it comes to new members. A new member has joined your community for a reason and it is likely that they will make mistakes to begin with. Be patient with them; be there to guide them and to direct them. If a member posts in the wrong area, don’t grill them for it but move the topic and leave a link in the old forum. This allows the new member to discover the correct places to post. Leave a reply in the moved topic explaining, politely, why you moved it but ensure you come across as an open and friendly person.
I started with it and I will finish with it, remember that your members are the reason for your site’s existence. They are the forum’s most important asset and it is vital that you treat them that way.