What does it take to moderate an online community? It requires someone who is willing to step in and guide the conversation when it goes astray. Without moderation, people can say anything they want, which can lead to both hurt feelings and bad publicity. When done right, moderators are like traffic cops, making sure everyone stays on the right track.
In this article, we will share insights to help you achieve success in your online community moderation. But first, let’s find out what exactly online community moderation is, why it is so important and what the responsibilities of an online community moderator are.
What is online community moderation?
An online community is a group of people connected to one another through the Internet. Moderating an online community means that someone who is not part of this specific community takes on responsibility for acting as a mediator and keeping discussions within appropriate boundaries. It often includes making decisions about what’s allowed in terms of speech or behavior, enforcing rules, responding to questions from members, and giving out warnings when necessary.
Why is moderation important in the community?
Online communities are a place where people can come together to share their interests and hobbies. Nevertheless, their opinions and behaviors might differ from one another. Therefore, it’s important to have moderators who watch over the community by ensuring that discussions stay within appropriate boundaries with all members being able to participate on equal footing without fear of harassment or abuse. Moreover, moderation helps to stimulate engagement within an online community and create a sense of belonging among its members.
What does an online community moderator do?
The role of a moderator in an online community is crucial as it ensures that all members have an enjoyable and productive experience in the community. A moderator will moderate content, enforce rules, provide feedback to users and promote positive interactions between members of the online community.
A moderator tries to keep all communication between the various members civil by stopping any inappropriate comments so they don’t escalate into arguments or disagreements among users. They also try to ensure everyone has an equal chance at participating in conversations without fear of being called names, either overtly or covertly.
Community moderators can encounter various challenges, such as deciding what is appropriate content, how to deal with differing opinions, and making sure the discussion stays on topic.
A moderator should be patient and understanding when trying to resolve any issues because it can take time for a person who has been attacked online to become comfortable again. The most important rule of moderation is to avoid any judgment or prejudice against users since moderators are tasked with serving all members equally.
Now we are going to share some actionable tips that will help you better moderate your online community.
1. Create a community policy and enforce it
Rules need to apply equally to everyone because this ensures fairness among participants. One way to ensure uniformity is writing clear guidelines with examples of how infractions were dealt with in the past so new moderators know when it’s time to intervene. If someone posts something that is inappropriate, a moderator will remove the post and provide feedback on why it was removed. If there’s an argument between two members in the community, or if one person doesn’t want to follow the rules posted by moderators (i.e., don’t swear), a moderator may step in and mediate until both sides reach an agreement.
It’s important for the moderator to enforce these rules and make sure they are being followed on a daily basis. It won’t take long before everyone will know what is acceptable behavior in your community. For example, if you only allow professional language use then anyone who posts anything inappropriate or foul-mouthed could be banned from the site.
Some general rules that can be followed when creating a policy for your online community:
- Respect other members of our community, including their opinions and beliefs;
- Keep your conversations constructive for everyone’s benefit;
- Be polite to each other;
- No spamming, no posting personal information about someone else on the site without permission etc.
Those are some simple guidelines that will help keep any online community from turning into a disaster waiting to happen.
A great example of an effective community policy is the one created by the Girl Gamers’ Alliance. Their policy is very clear and concise, it communicates to new members what they can expect when using the site. “The GGA board has a zero-tolerance for any kind of hostility towards others in our community.” This means that all posts should be constructive (in other words – no trolling) as well as encouraging respectful discussion between forum members.
Another example of an online community with a solid policy is the Firefly RPG community. Their policy is especially clear and concise, “No flaming or attacks on other members.” It’s a simple sentence that clearly communicates what can be found in the forum – no hostility of any kind!
2. Respond to posts quickly and efficiently
It is important to take care of problems and not let them linger so they don’t turn into more serious issues. If someone is swearing, for example, you might want to censor the offending words or put a warning before letting it go live. This will keep your community family-friendly and make people feel comfortable when discussing sensitive topics.
To ensure the safety of members, you should also remove content that could be harmful to your community. This includes removing any references or links to malicious software and malware as well as posts seeking personal information such as phone numbers and home addresses.
It is important not only for yourself but others in your community who might stumble across this type of post from never knowing about its existence because they are unaware of what happened. You will feel better if you know you have done everything possible to protect them.
One of the hardest parts of managing an online community is recognizing when constructive criticism has crossed a line and turned into abuse. Unless the content is very offensive or illegal, don’t delete it immediately as people may view it as censorship. Instead, respond to the post with a private message explaining politely that they have overstepped boundaries and warn them that if it continues then their account will be removed. You could also institute a “three strikes rule” whereby after three infractions occur, then all privileges get revoked until it’s been determined whether or not this person should be able to continue participating in your online community.
3. Keep an eye out for any potential cyberbullying, spamming, or other harmful behavior that may be happening in your community
A major issue that many online communities face is cyberbullying. This can be done by sending someone hurtful or threatening messages, posting inappropriate comments about the person on their social media account, and more. So if you see this happening in your community it’s important to take action like deleting the offending post(s) and blocking the user from being able to access your group.
Besides fostering a sense of belonging for members, an active moderation team also provides security against problematic users who may try to infiltrate groups with malicious intent. The best strategy when dealing with trolls is not feeding them.
Moderation should always err on the side of caution, so if a post or comment looks like it could potentially break one of your group’s guidelines but you aren’t 100% sure then just don’t allow it. The best policy is that something can only stay up in a discussion as long as there are no objections from other moderators and members about its content.”
If someone has been reported for abuse by another member then immediately block their account and delete any offending posts they have made before giving them a warning. When people know they’re going to get caught soon enough they’ll stop doing things. Monitor posts with offensive content and when you see similar behavior coming from that user, then it’s time to take action.
It is important to have a quick response for members asking if they should be concerned about their safety or security in your group based on something they saw another member post.
4. Create an atmosphere where people feel welcome and are encouraged to participate without fear of retribution
In order for community members to actively participate and share their thoughts, you should create an atmosphere where they feel welcome and are encouraged to do so without fear of retribution. This can come across as a challenging task.
For example, you could have an “unpopular opinion” day where members can share their thoughts on any topic without the fear of being ridiculed or attacked by others in the group. Another option that would encourage participation is to create groups within your community for people who are interested in discussing certain topics and then encouraging those members to participate actively with each other while also providing them with ways to connect offline if they want.
Another way to encourage participation is for a moderator to personally ask for feedback from everyone else in the community. You might be surprised about what’s going on behind the scenes that you never knew about before!
Read more: Community Engagement: 7 Strategies to Get You Started
5. Encourage community members to moderate one another
Encourage community members to moderate one another. The rush to remove spam and minor infractions is time-consuming for moderators, especially when the community grows and more work needs to be done by moderators in order to maintain a healthy environment inside of it. Increasing the number of moderators involved can be a solution to this problem; however, an even better approach would be enabling peer-to-peer moderation.
It’s empowering for other group members who want input on what happens within their own groups (less “us vs them” mentality) while simultaneously providing some relief from overworked staff! Also, it’s a great way to train people on how you moderate and, who knows? They might become your next moderator!
You can even integrate some gamification elements like badges for members who have moderated other community members and allow them to display their badges on their profiles. Stack Overflow community uses gamification elements in the form of badges that other members can earn for moderating content and contributing to discussions. They even created a whole list of moderation badges that community members can earn based on their contributions.
6. Keep the community policy up-to-date
What is important to remember is that your online community is a living, breathing entity. It will change and grow over time in ways you can’t predict or control – but it’s up to you as the moderator to keep those changes on track with the original intent of your community. Your guidelines will inevitably change as your community grows in size and evolves. The norms, objectives, and goals of your online community will gradually transform as more people become members. If you need to make alterations to your guidelines, make sure those changes are communicated to the entire community in some way – either through general announcements or email.
It’s fair to say that moderating an online community is a challenging, yet fulfilling job. It requires the ability to anticipate problems and issues before they happen as well as good communication skills. But you also need patience – it takes time for newcomers to understand your guidelines, so be patient with them!
When moderating online communities, be sure to take responsibility by not shying away from tough decisions. It isn’t always easy but when you do step up as a moderator there are many benefits: more trust between community members; peace of mind knowing all content will be monitored consistently and treated fairly.