Community moderation: 5 best practices every moderator must know
April 24, 20236 min read
“Monitor, engage and be transparent; these have always been the keys to success in the digital space.” – Dallas Lawrence
Online communities have become an integral part of our lives. From social media platforms to discussion forums, these meetups provide a safe space for people to connect with other like-minded individuals.
But building a thriving online community takes effort, and keeping your members engaged and invested in your community is essential to its success. Think of community building as hosting a party. You invite your friends over, but you don’t just stop there. You also ensure that everyone’s having a good time – you make small talk with every guest and make them feel at home, you refill their glasses when it’s time and also see to it that the party goes on smoothly. You have to approach online communities in the same manner, the only difference being it's all happening on the world wide web.
- What is community moderation?
- Why is community moderation important?
- Why are community moderators so critical to ensure the success of communities?
- 5 best practices for community moderation
- 1. Establish guidelines for a positive community experience
- 2. Set community privacy rules
- 3. Start community moderation early
- 4. Empower communities for self-moderation
- 5. Enhance community experience with productive updates
- Tips for choosing the right community management tool for online moderation
What is community moderation?
Community moderation is the practice of monitoring comments left by the members of a community. It involves using human judgment and decision-making to ensure that the community stays safe, respectful and enjoyable for all members. This is usually done by a single community moderator (or a team) in charge of aligning the community's discussions with the brand’s terms and conditions and/or code of conduct.
Have you ever been a part of an online community where you felt uncomfortable or unsafe due to toxic behavior or lack of moderation? Even if you haven’t had a bad experience yet, someone close to you most likely has had one. That's precisely why it's crucial to have a moderator managing a community. It's akin to having a friendly neighborhood watch that keeps an eye out for any suspicious activity taking place in the neighborhood.
Now that you know what community moderation is, let’s see why it’s important.
Why is community moderation important?
Firstly, it helps to foster a sense of trust and belonging among members. When members notice that the community is being managed fairly and impartially, they are more likely to participate and engage in discussions.
Secondly, moderation can help prevent harassment, bullying and other forms of toxic behavior that can drive people away from the community. By setting clear boundaries and consequences for unacceptable behavior, moderators can ensure that every member feels welcome and valued.
Community forum moderation typically involves three key components:
Carefully managing the user-generated content trickling into the community to maintain high standards and to ensure brand compliance on social media
Fostering an environment where respectful and productive discussion can take place while also setting clear boundaries and expectations to discourage inappropriate behavior
Actively engaging within the online community to uphold and defend the spirit of the community guidelines and to ensure that everyone has a positive and fulfilling experience
Why are community moderators so critical to ensure the success of communities?
As mentioned before, an online community is like a big party where everyone brings something unique to the table. However, with so many different personalities and viewpoints, things can sometimes get out of hand. That's why we need moderators — the party hosts.
Moderators create a safe and welcoming environment where everyone can join the fun without worrying about being picked on or harassed. By keeping an eye on discussions and flagging inappropriate content, they encourage healthy and engaging conversations that make the community feel more like a gathering of a tight-knit group of friends.
In most cases, moderators also have the authority to kick out a member for violation of community guidelines.
For instance, if a member posts content that doesn’t comply with the community guidelines, a moderator may have to remove the post and issue a warning.
If the same member continues to post inappropriate or offensive content, the moderator may have to take a more serious action, such as banning the member from the community.
Are you looking to build an effective online community moderation plan for your brand?
Let's dive right into best practices that will help make your community moderator’s job easier.
5 best practices for community moderation
1. Establish guidelines for a positive community experience
When launching an online community, it's important to create a set of well-written community guidelines that are downloadable, reviewed by an attorney and ready for members to access from day one.
While it's crucial for members to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas without fear of censorship, having clear guidelines helps ensure the safety and well-being of the community and its members.
Be crystal clear about the community's purpose: Define who the community is for and what it means to you is the key to attracting the right members and setting clear expectations
Define prohibited post types: Spam and solicitations are common types of prohibited content that can clutter up a community and detract from its purpose. Clearly defining these post types helps to keep the community focused and on track.
Set clear boundaries on unacceptable content: Clearly specifying that posting unacceptable content such as obscene or graphic images will not be tolerated under any circumstances helps maintain a safe and respectful environment
Define unacceptable community behavior: Explicitly defining these behaviors — Spamming, thread hijacking, going off-topic and improper content placement — helps keep the community on track and maintain a positive atmosphere.
Ban inappropriate behaviors: No tolerance for inappropriate behaviors such as hazing, bullying, defamation and intolerance. Ban members outright to maintain a healthy community experience
Guide members on handling complaints: Provide clear instructions on how to handle complaints (between members) to help members resolve issues effectively and keep the community running smoothly
2. Set community privacy rules
In a community, you don't have to share everything with the public. Community managers can control who has access to certain content and even create exclusive member groups within a community.
This is especially important when it comes to maintaining privacy and confidentiality, such as personal conversations between members or discussions about the community's plans and ideas.
3. Start community moderation early
If your brand community is either new or small, you might think that you don't need anyone to regulate it. However, that's not the case.
In fact, it's important to establish a positive culture in the early stages, so that all new members can follow the same trend. If there's no community moderation or regulation, it's easy for negative behaviors to creep in, and that can make it harder to change the toxic culture later on.
There are a lot of communities that struggle because they let negativity fester. So, if you want to create a healthy and vibrant community, it's important to actively work on building a positive culture from the beginning.
4. Empower communities for self-moderation
It's important to understand that community moderation is more than just enforcing rules. It involves setting an example for others and encouraging them to take ownership and pride in their forum.
Before intervening, it's best to give the community a chance to self-moderate by allowing time for members to respond appropriately. If necessary, lead by example and model the right behavior for others to follow.
In times of crisis, listening to your community and responding appropriately is crucial. Reaching out to vocal or disgruntled users personally shows them that you care and are working to solve the problem.
Don't be afraid to communicate openly and genuinely with your members and learn from their feedback and dissatisfaction. Remember, silence can be your worst enemy.
Furthermore, trust your community to moderate itself. Train them by setting community guidelines and modelling good behavior.
With time, your members will become excellent moderators, keeping discussions productive and positive. When your community can self-police, you'll know it's thriving.
5. Enhance community experience with productive updates
As your community evolves, embrace change. Guidelines and rules are not set in stone, and your community's norms and goals will likely change over time.
If you need to modify your code of conduct, don't hesitate to do so. However, it's important to communicate these changes clearly to your community through announcements or emails, so everyone is aware of the updated guidelines.
Additionally, the set guidelines must be consistently enforced. Your online community needs a clear plan for addressing rule violations. It's not only about recognizing when a violation occurs but also having a strategy for responding and taking action.
Managing a community with set guidelines can be a challenging task, especially when you have limited time and resources. To ensure your community members have the best experience, consider using a community management tool. By automating the heavy lifting, you can focus on what's most important — fostering a sense of belonging for people to connect with others like them.
Tips for choosing the right community management tool for online moderation
Is your community moderator struggling to keep up with the growing responsibilities of managing your online community? If you want them to manage and grow your online community effectively, consider providing them with a powerful tool for online community management.
Let’s look at a few tips on how to choose and effectively use such a tool:
Define the community goals: Before you start using any tool, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with your online community — increase engagement, build relationships or provide customer support? Your goals will guide your choice of tool and how you use it.
Choose the right moderation tool: There are various tools available for online community management, each with its unique features and benefits. Do your research to find the one that best suits your needs and budget. There are social media automation tools today that offer features such as scheduling posts, monitoring mentions and analyzing data.
Set up a tool to match your custom needs: Once you have chosen a tool, the next step is to set it up. This involves connecting your social media accounts, creating streams to monitor conversations and setting up a content calendar. Make sure to customize your settings to fit your needs. For example, you can set up alerts on the social listening tool for specific keywords or mentions or schedule posts at optimal times for your audience.
Engage with your community members: One of the most important aspects of community management is user or customer engagement. Use your tool to actively engage with your members, respond to their comments and participate in discussions. This will help build trust and foster a sense of community among your members.
Monitor and analyze results: To measure the success of your community management efforts, it is important to analyze your results. Your tool can provide data on metrics such as engagement, reach and conversions. Use this data to identify areas where you can improve and adjust your strategy accordingly. This will help you continue to grow and engage with your audience effectively.
To conclude, it's important to understand that community moderation plays a vital role in establishing and sustaining healthy online communities. The key to effective moderation lies in establishing clear rules and guidelines, enforcing them consistently and promoting a positive and inclusive community culture.
By implementing best practices and leveraging the latest tools and technologies, community moderators can ensure that online communities remain secure, respectful and helpful spaces for everyone.