How to Handle People Who Aren’t in Your Guild

No matter what game you’re playing, you do not get to play it exclusively with your guild. Ever. There are going to be other people playing the game, some of whom you want to have a positive relationship with — and your guild needs to handle how you interface with others.

Of course, that also comes with the caveat that people who aren’t your guild are, well, not in your guild. Which means that you have to handle a different sort of interplay. You simultaneously have to make sure that you’re treating people who aren’t in your guild as important and relevant while at the same time not letting your actual guild feel less relevant. It’s a juggling act, in other words.

So let’s break this down into three major categories… after we determine the sorts of people you’ll be dealing with.

Who is this person to you?

Total strangers are people whom your guild interacts with based on more or less nothing. They’re random people tossed into your guild by queued content or other unplanned excursions. They’re people members meet out in the field of open-world games. They’re not people you have recruited or ever interacted closely with.

Associates are people your guild deals with infrequently, but steadily enough that you know who they are. They may be part of a sister guild or just someone who’s close friends with some officers through other means. Your guild as a whole sort of knows them, but not really.

Partners, in this case, are non-members who wind up in your guild space a lot. They’re the sort of people who make you ask why they aren’t actually with your guild — and while there’s often a very good reason, they’re a familiar presence. Though¬†they have no actual ranks in your guild, they’re treated as almost a member.

Last but not least, former members are people who were part of your guild but aren’t any more. It’s important to consider why they’re former members rather than present members, and that’s going to inform the way you interact with them. If they left on positive terms, they can easily be akin to associates or partners; if they left on bad terms, there are other cans of worms to deal with.

Handling complaints and feedback

More often than not, you’re going to be getting this sort of feedback from total strangers. “Your guild member did X at our event,” or something similar. Someone you don’t know is going to accuse your guild member of being rude or otherwise violating a rule.

The first thing to do is to explain, calmly, whether or not what was done actually violates a rule of your guild. Guild members make an agreement to follow the rules of your guild, which is why I’ve mentioned in the past that you should have rules about behavior to outside members. However, if the guild member did something that was entirely valid but ruffled someone’s feathers, your only real recourse is to explain that to the (no doubt unhappy) victim.

Assuming that this is a violation of rules, thank the person and tell them that you’ll look into it. Follow up by talking with the player in question and explaining the complaint. You aren’t, hopefully, going to automatically side with your guild member just because they claim innocence; however, you’re also going to still take their version of events into account.

If you feel like there’s room enough to consider this an actual violation, you may as well treat it as one. Furthermore, if the person bringing the complaint is an associate or partner, you’ll probably be able to skip ahead a bit; you don’t need to know if the person leveling the complaint is trustworthy. More often than not, this is the sort of thing that merits a warning and a filing away until a later date. But if the member in question has several warnings for dealing with non-guild members the same way, it’s a sign that more serious steps should be taken.

Handling attendance at events

Events are a bit trickier simply because, at least in theory, events have limited space. Every non-guild member who attends is one more guild member who can’t, and that’s important to consider. But that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily wrong to have non-guild members about; it just means that you have to have a care for how you invite people.

When setting up events, designate if they are open to non-guild members and also emphasize whether signups are based on a first-come first-served basis or on a priority system. If it’s the former, whomever offers to show up first gets to come, and if that means guild members get pushed out, that’s on them. The latter case, however, lets you tailor the list based on who you want there first and foremost; just don’t claim a priority system if you’re going to be inviting non-guild members and not inviting members.

Obviously, you can’t punish people who fail to attend if they’re not part of your guild. As a result, it’s best to limit events like this to ones where you can go with a flexible number or cancel if you can’t get enough guild members; if you’re doing a World of Warcraft raid on Normal and you don’t have ten members sign up, don’t try to fill out the base with non-members. It’s also completely fair to prioritize former members (on good terms) and partners over associates.

If the non-members showing up are part of another guild, you may want to communicate with that guild’s officers first, just to coordinate matters. It might not be necessary (your guild might be a casual raiding group while they’re a PvP group), but it can be good to know that if you do need to hand out some punishment, the other guild has your back to some extent.

Handling progression content

This is where things can get very tricky. Progression content is something that, in theory, not everyone has done yet. It’s something that drops some really high-end rewards. And traditionally, it’s often been one of the bastions of guild content. A guild offers a group that can clear this content. But sometimes that winds up being just plain limiting, forcing people to choose between guilds and environments that they want to either follow friends or progress, not both.

The first step, then, is to make sure that any progression groups are operating on a priority system that is understood ahead of time and is entirely transparent. Once that’s established, the question has to be answered: for every non-guild member present, why should that person be there instead of another guild member?

At this point, you’re pretty much only discussing partners and former members on good terms. If you’re filling out with totally random members, it’s probably not really progression.

The other major thing to consider here is rewards, and there’s really one hard-and-fast rule you need to have in place here: If there’s something that’s being fought over by a member and a non-member, the member wins that fight. No matter what it is, the member gets the item. That ensures that members don’t feel as if they’re fighting against people who aren’t even in the guild to get rewards they need; they still might not get what they want, but at least it’s not because of someone who isn’t even part of the guild.

You’re always going to be dealing with non-guild members, but with careful management, this can actually be an asset. Just make sure that your priorities center around the people who are in your guild. Otherwise, those members are going to wonder why they’re supporting a guild without an interest in supporting them.

How to Properly Promote Your Guild

The old adage of “no publicity is bad publicity” is a bald-faced lie. You know it in your heart to be so. Sure, it sounds nice to think that any forms of publicity are equally helpful, but you know that odds are low you’re going to join the guild whose members are constantly shouting obscenities in general chat, or the ones who advertise themselves with a regularity usually reserved for atomic clocks.

Of course, you also know you need to promote your guild, even if you’re not doing so by swinging a yowling cat over your head and shouting about it on the regular. Sure, you may or may not to be recruiting right at this moment, but you still need people to know you exist or you’ll be out of luck when you are recruiting again. This means you have a complex problem on your hand, a need to advertise along with a need to avoid being seen as annoying.

Yes, some of this comes down to managing how your group interacts with others who aren’t among your members. But how do you advertise effectively? It probably comes as no surprise that there are tricks to it, and mastering them is well worth the time it takes.

Focus on tangible distinctions

When I play Final Fantasy XIV, I regularly see advertisements for guilds that have a laundry list of features – buffs always on, a stocked guild bank, plenty of players, voice chat servers, and so forth. And I always roll my eyes seeing them, because those things are not features. That’s like advertising a car based on the fact that it has a windshield, headlights, and tires. You can argue (convincingly) that all of that is necessary, but you can’t argue that it’s unique.

When you’re advertising your guild, you don’t need to advertise things that everyone naturally assumes are present. Those offerings will take care of themselves. Instead, what you need to convince people is that you can offer something above and beyond the normal. Instead of making a four-line advertisement stuffed with the stuff every guild has, a one-line advertisement with one unique feature is more likely to stick with people.

Similarly, advertising a “great community” or “helpful players” isn’t really an advertisement in and of itself; what you call a great community might not be what another player sees as great or even acceptable. Those are just words. Saying that you have a community focused on small-group content and scheduled runs for new players? That’s an actual thing. That’s something that you can check on and provide, something tangible. Just by focusing on actual things instead of buzzwords, you can make some extra impact.

Run open events

If I see a guild telling me “join up with us, we want more members,” my eyes frequently glaze over. I can’t help it, I see a lot of those. But if I see a guild in World of Warcraftoffering sign-ups to people who want to run old Mythic raids for transmogs as an open event? Now my interest is piqued, even if I don’t want to join that guild.

Open events are a great form of advertising, in part because you don’t actually have to do any advertising. All you have to do is organize and run an event that happens to include strangers. You don’t need to tell people about what your guild does, because you’re showing them what you can do, welcoming people to take part in something fun while at the same time demonstrating your ability to handle it.

It’s important to recognize the distinction here between advertising and recruiting; open events are worthwhile even if your group isn’t recruiting at the moment. Indeed, outright ending open events with “now join our guild” is a good way to make the goodwill you earn evaporate quickly; players will feel like they’ve been held hostage for an advertisement. Instead, just run the event, thank people for coming, do the best you can, and then know that you left a positive impression on people when they arelooking for a guild.

Of course, running these events also requires a certain critical mass of people, so it’s not always easy to do in the earliest stages of a guild’s development. But it is worth the effort put forth.

Be active and visible

Passive advertisement can often be as effective as outright advertisement, if not more so. This is the same principle as the open events mentioned above; if your guild is running something that people attend and like, they’re more likely to remember your guild positively. Just being active and helpful in the community of your game can often build up significant word of mouth alone.

Obviously, not everyone can be a top-level theorycrafter or run dozens of events per month, but even just taking part in discussions and being friendly can make a significant impact. Being active on a community site is an excellent way to keep your guild’s name out and notable without having to rely on shouting about yourself.

Of course, it comes with a caveat – just like in-game, anyone with your guild tag is representing your guild as a whole. If the people passively advertising your guild are contentious, nasty, or cruel, that’s what everyone will assume your guild as a whole is like, even if that’s not true. A bit of caution is well-advised, as a result.

If maintaining an active presence is a bit much, many official sites for online games have forums specifically dedicated to advertisements; posting a detailed advertisement that gets edited and bumped for major changes can often be a good form of quiet notification for people who are looking. As with the first point, you should be focusing on things your guild has that are unique rather than universal, but the core remains the same.

When you have to shout, do it quietly

MMORPGs almost always have guilds shouting their advertisements in cities. As discussed above, you want to do so in a way that focuses on what you do rather than generic traits, but there’s another important aspect: not trying to shout over anyone.

Place your advertisement in the intended chat channel, and then leave. Don’t do that again for another fifteen minutes at least, preferably half an hour to an hour. Enough time so that people are likely to see it, but not so often that it’s constantly buried in waves of chat. If the chat is super active, consider waiting and coming back at another time to advertise.

Again, what you want here is for people to know you’re around, not to be annoyed with your constant begging for members. Spacing out your advertisements helps accomplish that. It keeps your presence in the minds of those watching, but it does so in a way that suggests you’re calm about it. You’re not begging, you’re just asking people to come over, without any real urgency to it.

There are, of course, no certainties. It can be difficult for advertisements to reach the people you want. But if you’re trying to do so the right way, you can at least be certain that you’re not alienating the people you’re trying to attract.