Community interaction is essential to ensure a community grows and thrives. And while a large part of this interaction usually involves giving advice or encouraging amazing conversations, community moderation is just as important.
Just as in real-world communities, online communities can suffer from both legitimate disputes and people just looking to stir up trouble. Thankfully it doesn’t take much to quickly resolve conflicts and put any other problems to bed if you’re equipped with the right tools and know-how.
We’ll go over some of the keys to moderating an online community and ensuring members feel like they’ve found a place where they feel welcomed and encouraged to participate.
Understanding Online Community Moderation
Nearly every community out there, no matter the platform, has community moderators or managers to help keep things running smoothly and members happy. Think traditional social media; odds are you’ve come across a comment from a community moderator at one point or another.
And while an online community moderator’s job description might be slightly different, especially if your community manager is also your moderator, the idea is the same.
Creators and brands need someone to make sure members aren’t being harassed, topics aren’t being hijacked, and community members feel like they’re free to express their opinions without judgment.
Luckily, odds are most of your community members will never participate in any of the above. And even if a dispute does arise, it’ll most likely just be because either one or both parties are passionate about a topic, and things just got out of hand.
Still, it’s vital that creators and brands respond to issues quickly when they arise and, if they can’t, have a moderator or manager on hand who can. It’s also important not to get carried away with moderation. Nobody wants to stifle community conversation and dissuade members from participating.
With that said, here are some basic tips creators and brands can use to keep their online community thriving and the conversations going.
Establish Rules & Guidelines
No matter how large or small a community is when it’s first getting started, it’s important to write up some rules and guidelines for members to abide by. This is one of the most important aspects of moderating an online community.
Some platforms will ask new members to agree to the rules before they’re allowed to join, but this is not always the case. If the platform you’re using does not ask members to agree to the guidelines, hosts can still manually do this themselves.
It’s essential to make sure members know the community guidelines before they get started so that they know what to expect and what they can do if they run into trouble.
Community moderators and managers can attach the rules document to a welcome message or other information they send to new members. This document should be stored somewhere that’s easily accessible (usually with other resources). It can also be a good idea to bring up the fact that the community has rules and guidelines in a thread after an incident happens.
Some common items and objectives you might want to lay out in your guidelines include:
- A quick brief about what kind of content is and isn’t acceptable in the community (for example, graphic or inappropriate content)
- The community’s aim (this will help keep conversations on topic)
- Behaviors that will result in bans (harassment, discrimination, disrespectful behavior, etc.)
- If solicitations or advertisements are allowed
- A reminder for community members to encourage others to take part in conversations
It might seem daunting to write your own rules at first, but the document shouldn’t be very long. In fact, a simple list will do. Nobody wants to read guidelines that look like a terms of service agreement.
Consistently Enforce The Rules
No matter what you choose to include in your guidelines, it’s important to enforce them whenever there’s an incident. It might be difficult to tell someone they’re breaching the rules, especially the first time. But you have to remember you’re just looking out for other community members.
It’s also essential to have a clear idea of how you plan on handling a situation before one occurs. Will you start by sending an email or private message? What will the message say? How will you ultimately resolve the issue?
If the issue is not serious, you may want to consider implementing a three-strike policy. The first strike might result in something like a friendly message, with you asking the member to review the community’s guidelines.
The second strike could result in a one-on-one conversation to see why the incident occurred. And a third strike may result in a ban — either temporary or permanent.
However, this is just a suggestion, and it’s ultimately up to the host to choose what they want the consequences to be and how they want to enforce them. Still, it’s good to include these in the rules and guidelines so community members can be aware of them.
Moderating an online community is all about building trust. However you choose to implement the rules, it’s important to stay on top of any incidents so that the community knows who to turn to if they ever need help.
Moderators or managers will also want to consider keeping a document to record violations. This is to make sure you’re keeping track of all violations and to cover yourself should questions ever arise.
Employ A Community Manager Or Moderator
Moderating an online community can be a full-time job. Members will likely be from different parts of the world, meaning messages can and will pop up at all different times of the day.
No one person can respond to every message or monitor threads as soon as they appear, so it might be worth considering hiring someone to take on this role for you. The person can be from within the community or from outside.
If you do go this route, walk through the rules with your moderator and explain your vision for the community. That way, you’re both on the same page about everything.
If a community is small and just starting, it’s okay to let a few members moderate if they offer. Sometimes, these will be the more active members of a community or perhaps people who’ve already shown they have an interest in moderating.
However, it’s important to emphasize that a volunteer doesn’t have to treat moderation as a full-time job. For example, they might only moderate whenever they happen to be online or for very short periods once a day.
And it’s still advised to compensate these moderators in some way for their time. After all, these are usually your best members, and if you do decide to hire a community moderator, these members might be the best choice.
Encourage Your Community To Help Out
Whether you decide to hire an official community moderator or not, one of the best tools available to you is the community itself. You want the community to be aware and, to some degree, practice self-moderating. Basically, you want to promote a culture of see something, say something.
Hosts and moderators can do this by popping in every now and again just to post the guidelines and give the community a few words of encouragement. They can also ask their members if they know how and who to report incidents to if something occurs to ensure the reporting process is clear.
But ultimately, the best thing a moderator or host can do is lead by example. If your community sees you taking incidents of harassment seriously or gently inserting yourself into a debate that’s gotten a bit too hot, then they’re sure to follow your lead.
This doesn’t only help with moderating, but it also gives the community a sense of ownership. Building a thriving online community is up to everyone.
Ask Your Community For Feedback
Finally, don’t be scared to ask for feedback. Nothing should be written in stone, and even laws change all the time. Make sure to ask your community for input on the rules and guidelines every so often.
There might be something in there that isn’t quite working for everyone, or there could be some wording that is difficult to interpret.
This also applies to incidents. If someone was involved in violating the rules, try to message them or have a moderator message them and get their side of the story or ask them why they are dissatisfied.
Unless the violation is extreme, it’s generally a good idea to at least hear somebody out.
Moderating an online community is time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be tough. In fact, odds are you probably won’t even have to deal with serious violations very often, especially if you’re building a community of like-minded people.
But if you are looking for a platform with all of the moderation tools you’ll ever need, then why not consider Nas.io? Our platform has everything a brand or creator needs to master community moderation, and we’ll even assign you a community manager if you so choose. On top of that, hosts and their communities have access to live zoom meetings with experts, pdf resources, and some of the most popular Nas Academy classes.
So, why not get to building today?