Starting a guild means you’re starting an online community from the ground up. You and a few (possibly random) people sign your names to a charter, and BAM! you have a shiny new set of words under your name as well as numerous new buttons and responsibilities. An inexperienced leader may just start signing up every person with a pulse who clicks the accept button, but is there a better way out there?
Of course there is!
One of the most important things any leader can do is create a solid recruitment plan. If you don’t fill your ranks with enough of the right people (this is especially important when talking about any sort of senior staff), you could be dooming yourself to fail from the start. However, I’ve found there’s a number of decisions you have to make prior to typing /ginvite to anyone.
For example: What sort of a personality do you hope your guild will have? What is the purpose of your guild? What will you deem acceptable behavior? Do u wnt ppl tlking lik dis or do you prefer people actually knowing where vowels are on a keyboard? Do you want to appeal to more casual players, or do you want to be an elite squad of professionals that make bosses tremble before you?
There is an important disclaimer I need to put out here right away: you won’t necessarily have full control over how some of these questions will get answered. For example, your guild’s personality will develop along the guidelines you create (hence why I said “hope”), but the individuals in it will help either attract or repel like-minded people. If you’re a bunch of smartasses who love to pick on each other (an example that’s near and dear to my heart), odds are other smartasses will find themselves oddly at home, while more sensitive players may wash out quickly—I’ve found thick skins are great for players to have, but I’ll touch on that another time. Let’s assume you have some sort of a vague idea of how you want the guild to be in your head, so let’s start addressing some of the questions you DO have more control over.
A guild’s purpose is fairly easily defined. Are you playing for fun and to level your toons with friends, or are you wanting to build up a raiding capacity? Do you want to have more relaxed, casual rules or do you want to lean toward a more hardcore/intense feel? Do you want your goal to be 10-man raids or 25? Each of these questions slightly changes the target demographic you’re trying to recruit. I can tell you from experience that players looking for a hardcore raiding experience are sorely disappointed when they find out you only raid twice a week, or—for an example earlier in a guild’s life cycle—players at the level cap aren’t impressed by your desires to be a raiding guild when your guild as a whole is only 2/3rds of the way to said cap. You just can’t hope to keep these people no matter how great of a guild you are.
Now that you have some idea of what you want your guild to be, you need to try and find the right sort of people. Ages ago, I had a strategy where I would never recruit in Trade (public in-game chat in WoW). I know it is a pretty common practice, but I’ve always seen it as piling on in a channel that can turn into a spamfest with one mention of Chuck Norris, or one linking of Thunderfury. Additionally, in my experience, you will have a higher tendency to pull players who will guild hop more often (tourists) or players who tend to be more volatile (read: assholes who are out of a guild) all because it is such a common recruitment ground.
Overall, these issues used to be easily avoided because you could run your macro in the departed /guildrecruitment—a magical place where everyone had to take extra steps (show the slightest bit of initiative). It was easy to win out over other guilds by being very active in the channel. As of patch 4.1, they took the channel away and gave us the Guild Finder: an automated tool that lets your active guild compete with every other guild for visibility while having a crappy character limit for your sales pitch.
In the Guild Interest section, you are able tell recruits what exactly it is that your guild does. Most of the choices are pretty self-explanatory (the entire interface is simple, and that’s why it’s so damn bland). Each of these settings will match up directly with what people search for, and since most guilds do a little of everything, it does nothing to filter out results in practice.
The Class Roles section is still not that spectacular. Many guilds (and all new guilds) have open recruitment policies and many players have alts, so options are normally not turned off unless you’re a raiding guild that is legitimately full.
The first truly useful option is the level toggle. If you don’t want to bother with level 5 toons who want to join your guild, feel free to turn it off. As I generally have a bunch of people leveling alts (especially early in an expansion), it never really hurts to keep this set to any level. Just watch out for truebies (true newbies) who really just started playing for the first time. You don’t usually run into them these days, but it can happen.
Finally, we get to the only thing that actually will make your entry different from the others in the guild finder window (aside from your tabard): your message to the world. You can write whatever you want to try and sell yourself to the world, but just remember: its character limit is far shorter than it should be, and you will end up missing lines.
One click later: you’re on the exchange.
Some time will pass (as I’ve never seen a “rush” of people through Guild Finder, but my experiences are on a low-population server so some results may vary (please consult your doctor). You will eventually see guild finder ‘hits’ on a different tab (highlighted below).
The request tab will give you a notice that you have someone waiting. Odds are they won’t be online, but you can add them to your friends list and wait. I’ve generally had bad luck with the Guild Finder (I would say I only see people who click “Request Invite” 1 out of 10 times), but it’s foolish not to try.
The other method for recruitment that I’ve had the greatest amount of success with is internal referrals. World of Warcraft is a very social game, and everyone has friends that play. If you are able to create an environment that’s fun, welcoming, and worth peoples time to be a part of, you will naturally grow thanks to “Hey, I’ve got a friend who just transferred to this server because I told him how awesome the guild is.”—it’s a POWERFUL force.
There’s one more VERY important step to a recruitment plan: how to talk to potential recruits. You as the recruiter are a powerful guiding force to how people will be expected to act, and I have a few personal rules to help shape the conversation.
#1 – Use full sentences and be somewhat grammatically correct
If u tlk to a playr in crppy shrthand, expect them to reciprocate. But if you start talking to them somewhat professionally, many many players will respond positively. “Hello there, I noticed you had applied to join my guild, and I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes about it” goes a long way in setting the tone of a conversation.
#2 – Be up front
I try not to bullshit anyone that I’m trying to recruit, and will be very forward with our strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been both recruiting and leading my guild for long enough that I can rattle off relevant strengths and weaknesses of our guild to anyone I talk to. For example:
Pros: We’ve been around for 5 years and had the same leaders almost the entire time; we strive to maintain a casual aspect to everything and acknowledge that real life comes before a game; many of our members have been guilded for 2, 3, and 4 years (with a couple who will be in their5thyear soon), so when people join and like us, they stay forever.
Cons: We can be a bit abrasive when we’re teasing each other, so people with thin skins will more than likely be offended and /gquit before the end of their first day.
#3 – Talk to them until you’re happy
I always try to engage recruits in a basic conversation to see if they can handle some basic social interactions. If they can’t seem to handle answering questions, I tend to just let the conversation die out. This can be a good way to identify recruits with potential down the line as well as you can really get a feel for what they have done and what they aspire to do in the future.
#3 – Have an application process
I have what I believe to be 98% complete recruitment records, going back to December of 2008. I have everyone’s application date (which I use for their join date for tracking purposes), and every person that joins my guild must apply (and returning members must reapply for further tracking purposes). This not only gives you good information about where your recruits are coming from, but it can also help you try and flag any potential problems in the future (e.g., if someone has a past guild history 10 guilds long, you may have a tourist on your hands). I’ll normally allow someone who impresses me in our conversation to join the guild prior to filling out the application, but I only give them a 48-hour window to get it submitted.
With a little hard work, a little time, and a little luck, you can help set your guild up with a long term plan to help it grow the way you want and help create a community you can be proud of.