Community moderation should be done by someone who loves and understands people and has deep empathy for them. Assuming you have chosen a community manager like this, they’ll need a toolbox of the following to keep large online communities (10,000+) managed.
The toolbox includes policies, moderation help, platform features, decisive action, discernment, processes and procedures, and the support of your team.
Community Moderation Guidelines & Policies
Make Fair Rules & Policies
From the start, it’s important to make fair rules and guidelines for your members. They need to be able to share their comments and ideas if they are going to come back and contribute.
I tend to error on the side of giving members more freedom to post and comment, as the community is growing and new members are constantly coming in. I want to keep in mind “What’s In It For Members?” so that I don’t over moderate, upset, and discourage a lot of members.
There is a fine line here, between what is acceptable, what isn’t, and what is too strict for your members.
You’ll need to include rules and policies to keep the peace, to keep members from attacking each other, from foul language (if it’s an issue in your industry), and guidelines on how to handle politically sensitive issues.
Clearly Identify Spam
As I mentioned, members should be able to share about their projects, content, etc on some kind of basis (perhaps a share thread each week?), so you have to figure out what is considered spamming and what falls into acceptable practice.
- Comments must add value to the discussion (no off topic links, comments, dirty posts, etc).
- Community managers have the right to remove anything at any time (cover yourself for unplanned circumstances).
- Link shares must also include at least 50 words of content to begin a discussion.
- Unrelated links and comments are spam.
Publish Your Self-Promotion Policy
Related to spam, but a bit different as you’ll want members to share interesting projects they are working on. The biggest indication is “Does my contribution here add value or is it just to benefit me?”
Enforce Your Rules & Policies Politely & Fairly
There are rarely reasons to be rude to your members, even if you feel their behavior warrants it. Poor behavior on your team can turn into a public relations issue very quickly.
When you need to enforce your rules and policies, be empathetic, acknowledge how frustrating it can be for the other person(s) involved and keep your cool.
Community Moderation With Your Team
Have Moderation Policies & Procedures In Place
Outside of your own moderation activities, you’ll have to share your policies and procedures within your team and likely with volunteer mods and ambassadors (if they are to report issues).
It’s best to have some documentation available because you won’t always be available to assist on moderation issues. This doesn’t have to be public to the community, but it can be if you are comfortable with it.
This will allow anyone who has to step in, at any point to manage the community without you, and will easily allow you to bring in new moderators without too much onboarding or shadowing.
Bring On Volunteer Moderators
When your community is very large, and your team is not, it makes sense to get the most trustworthy community members active in moderation. They can flag and report comments and members who are causing trouble. You should also give them direct access to ban someone temporarily, in very extreme cases.
They will need to be able to email or chat with you. I recommend having monthly chats (Slack is fine) with your moderators to let them know what has changed, get their feedback on how spamming and members are using the site, share any trends in behavior, and learn about your company’s upcoming plans that affect the community.
I’ve found using volunteer moderators to be very helpful and effective in keeping a large community under control and rolling along smoothly with day-to-day activity.
Keep Mods & Members Up To Date On Changes
In addition to keeping documentation of your moderation processes, it’s a good idea to keep moderators and team members up to date on changes to the policy. People will not regularly check the document when they already know the practices, so changes need to come by notification.
A CRM attached to your community will help you send a quick email to mods, while a quick update in Slack will let your team members know.
Keep Your Team Aware of Ongoing Community Behavior Problems
As issues happen in your community and your team and mods get online and off, you’ll want to keep people up to date on issues going on in the community.
Everyone should know the names of members who are spamming, behaving inappropriately, or causing other problems. This way action can be taken when infractions happen, without allowing too many offenses to occur.
Have An Escalation Process For Your Team to Follow
Members won’t always follow the rules, and there will come a time you have to weigh the significance of the contributions someone makes against their poor behavior. So what happens after you have already warned someone? Perhaps it’s time for a suspension?
I recommend putting an escalation process in order, so you know exactly what to do next, and document how you handle these situations for future use.
When a warning hasn’t helped and it is a small infraction (posting useless comments or content) it might be OK to warn them again. If it’s a bigger infraction (swearing, insulting other members, etc) I’ve suspended members for a week to 2 weeks.
Any repeat of suspension type behavior in the future results in banning. If this escalation process doesn’t work for you, take time to discuss with other community managers (there are several online groups) or ask your team for advice in how to handle the member, another opinion is often helpful.
Continuously Look For New Moderators
Once you’ve started a volunteer moderator program, you’ll need to keep it manned with reliable, regular users.
Overtime you’ll see that not all moderators stay active, some will inevitably get busy or find other interests. When that happens you’ll need another person to take their place. If you keep people in mind from the beginning you won’t have to worry about getting someone new to add to the program.
Here are a few guidelines for choosing moderators:
- Members who comment frequently over months of activity
- Members who show protective tendencies in your community (calling out spam, etc)
- Members who have already spent time reporting or using moderation features
- Members who have a decent grasp of the topics discussed in your community
- Members who show decent communication skills (reach out to test this)
Community Platforms & Moderation
Use A Platform That Offers Moderation Feeds
A lot of platforms allow moderation features like a comment and new posts feed. This is a lot more useful than having to visually differentiate what is new. For example, Facebook Groups doesn’t have this, they do have the option to get all new posts in moderation first, but not all comments.
Moderation feeds make it easy for you and all moderators who want to quickly skim for spam, or other problematic posts and comments, without first having to approve all of the content (before it goes live on the site).
See What Other Moderating Features Your Platform Offers
The platform you choose for running your community should let you know what features the offer for moderation. I prefer moderation feeds, options for flagging, deleting, and editing contributions, suspending members or restricting their ability to participate/comment/post, and public reporting features.
Enable Features That Allow Members to Report Poor Behavior
Flagging posts and reporting them can mean two different things, especially based on the platform you use. In my experience, letting the community flag posts means they are telling you this doesn’t look like it’s acceptable, however reporting it means it should be removed immediately.
These should go to separate queues for you and your moderators to manage.
Carefully Watch These Members
Closely Watch New Members
Your newest members are those most likely to misbehave, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them, or add their posts/comments to your moderation queue until they have been active for a certain period of time. Not all platforms will offer this feature so you’ll have to watch over them manually.
In Facebook Groups if you go to your members list, you can filter the list by date and see new members. If they have any recent posts, Facebook shows a link to their content and you can click through to check on their content.
Be Careful Of People Who Take Advantage
Last but not least, the experts and influencers you invite to your community may take the stance they can do what they want. Sometimes, it’s OK to give them special privileges, especially if their participation makes a huge difference to your achieving your goals. However, you also want to keep in mind that any behavior they display will also be followed by others.
When you seek to initially connect with them, it’s a good idea to remind them off the community guidelines, and you can go so far as to tell them you appreciate them keeping an eye out for poor practices so you can handle them quickly. Giving them some responsibility here, encourages them to uphold the rules themselves.
Large community moderation can be overwhelming if you don’t have practices, guidelines, support, and features in place to help you. When you approach it systematically you can manage the large amounts of conversation in your community, while keeping the peace and allowing members to enjoy themselves.