One of the most challenging roles of a community manager is in the upholding of their particular community or forum rules and in moderating the posts made by community members. Rules are necessary to ensure that communities remain useful and usable for all members, helping to cut down on spam, keeping discussions on topic and ensuring that members don’t become abusive.
“The skills of a moderator can make or break a community”
While experienced online community users will be well versed in community etiquette, that doesn’t mean everyone will be aware of the need to locate and read community guidelines before posting or commenting, meaning that they may as a result jump straight in and inadvertently break rules.
“Banning people or deleting posts with no explanation
won’t do anything to build the reputation of your community”
Engaging with people in order to advise them to read the community guidelines and to inform them of any infringements is always going to be far more effective than simply deleting their post and providing no explanation – without guidance people are likely to repeat infringements so always take time to explain your actions and point people in the direction of your guidelines.
Strict rules on spamming are common, but bear in mind, even with guidelines in place, there may still be some gray areas. For example, whilst you might have a section that allows community members to promote their most recent blog articles, that blog article could also have significant relevance to other sections or conversations happening in your community due to its topic.
Moderating isn’t easy and relies upon both good communication skills and having the judgement and conviction to carry out actions that uphold the rules of that community. If you are new to community management the tips below will help to ensure you are able to moderate effectively and fairly.
If you are dealing with a troublesome community member publicly, it is imperative to remain polite and professional. If the situation escalates remain calm and never take action out of anger or frustration. Just because you own or moderate a community that doesn’t give you the right to forget having manners.
Make your rules clear
Make sure your rules are clear. Write a set of guidelines that are easily accessible and kept up to date. Clearly set out what is and is not acceptable and also make sure you are clear about your banning process (if you have one).
Encourage different points of view
Don’t ban or remove posts simply because they differ from your own point of view. Diverse opinions are generally good as they stimulate debate.
Genuine mistakes do happen
Remember that as a moderator you will know the rules of your community inside out. If an infringement is made don’t assume it is an attempt to outwit you, genuine mistakes do arise and can easily be addressed if you let the person responsible know.
Don’t be too heavy handed
Give people time to get up to speed with new or recent changes to rules and/or guidelines. Even frequent community contributors might miss a post on changes, so make sure you do all you can to publicise any changes to your guidelines and give people some leeway, at least in the first couple of weeks immediately after changes are brought in.
Explain your actions so people understand them
Don’t remove a post or ban a user without having the courtesy to explain or give reasons for your actions. The only exception would be If someone posts offensive content or is very blatantly spamming with total disregard for the rules; in these situations a swift ban could be your best option.
Temporary bans can be effective
Consider temporary bans for persistent offenders and only move to a permanent ban if they are clearly flouting community guidelines and don’t respond to your advice.
Ensure you carry out moderation in a consistent and fair way, in line with your published guidelines. Whilst it might be tempting to give frequent quality contributors a bit more leeway, make sure you are applying the same rules to all community members.