I've always found summer to be the toughest time of the year to recruit. The weather is great, kids are out of school, and families are off traveling, so this is usually the time of year when there aren't many folks out there looking for a guild. In fact, don't be alarmed if your roster shrinks right around this time because members will also have their hands full with summer plans. It's natural, and it certainly isn't a bad thing, but it's something to factor into your recruiting efforts. If you're advertising for your guild in the middle of July and all you hear are crickets, it's not necessarily the end of the world (and it might be a good opportunity to get out there and soak up some sun!).
While summer tends to be slow, fall definitely sees an increase in player activity, and I've found it a great time to do a recruiting push. Everyone's back and prepping for those harsh winter months, so you're more likely to see the return of familiar faces as well as a larger number of players seeking out a good guild.
You'll usually see an increase in recruitable players in the month prior to an expansion and in the two to three months after launch. The buzz of fresh content and new features attracts attention, and players who might have taken a break will suddenly return to get their gear in order and prep for the new stuff. But the larger pool of candidates doesn't mean a large pool of quality candidates, so you'll have to look closely at who's a good fit.
Holidays can be a good time, but...
Holidays are a mixed bag. Players tend to have more gaming time during breaks like Thanksgiving or Christmas, but those players include both young and old. You'll generally find more players seeking a guild during holiday breaks, but if you're a guild that's interested only in adult members, you'll need to make that clear in your recruiting message.
Three months after a game's launch
On the surface, it might seem like it's harder to recruit in an MMO months after launch, but actually, it can be a great opportunity. There are lots of pre-launch guilds that don't last, and usually it results in a fracturing of the guild, with some players moving on to other games, and others who want to stick around. Three months is usually about the time when you start to see that trend, but it can last even through the first year and beyond. You certainly don't want to poach from another guild, but if it's clear that a guild is really struggling, you might consider extending an invitation to those members.
Free-to-play is a great time (no, really!)
Lots of games have recently gone free-to-play, and it's a fantastic time to recruit. Yes, you will see lots of players out there who are just doing a drive-by, but keep in mind that among them are many veteran gamers who probably were guilded at some point and who would make great additions to your guild. It'll take a little time to spot the quality members, but the effort can really pay off. In fact, this is when a guild really shines because it can serve as the game's ambassador to newbies and be the "glue" that encourages a new player to stick around for the long term.
Plan around in-game events, game updates, promotions
Similarly, we're seeing lots of MMOs generate buzz through special events, promotions, and game updates. By extension, that buzz helps a guild with recruiting because both the game developers and guilds want the same thing: more players. In fact, you might consider organizing your own special in-game event and time it to coincide with these buzzworthy events. Chances are, there will be a greater number of players seeking a guild, so you'll have an easier time recruiting by making your guild stand out in the crowd.
Other servers, other games
If your game has multiple servers, it goes without saying that you should be looking at the player pools even beyond your community. Years ago, a newly transferred player who was looking for a guild was usually considered damaged goods, but that's not so much the case today. It's much more common for guilds, and players, to be willing to transfer in order to find a good match.
There's a sizable field of MMO titles out there now, so if you're really serious about finding good members, it's worth considering looking in other games that are similar to yours. Multi-game guilds have a leg up because they're able to keep an eye on several game communities at once, but even if you're a one-game guild, it might be worth a quick glance at the forums of other MMOs (especially one of those games that's just ended its three-month, post-launch, Honeymoon phase).
Recruit during the time of the day when your guild is most active
It's fine to advertise for your guild at various times of the day, but ideally you want to focus your recruiting efforts during the peak hours of guild activity. If you're a morning raiding guild, reach out to those coffee-swillling morning players, not the night owls. This may sound obvious, but it's surprising how many guilds don't take that into consideration when recruiting.
MMOs are a strange bird because they don't have clearly defined peaks and valleys. There isn't an "off-season" when guilds get a chance to take a breather and shore up their roster. However, there are definitely times when it's easier to find and recruit good players for your guild. And if it seems like the pool has dried up, that might change the next week or month thanks to changes in the seasons or changes in the game, so take heart!
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.