Effective moderation can leave a community manager feeling a bit like Goldilocks in search of the perfect bowl of porridge.
Too much moderation can lead to foregoing one of the key benefits of your community – crowdsourcing the answers to your customers’ questions. Too much moderation includes jumping in to immediately answer all questions or deleting posts that you don’t agree with. You end up discouraging your community members from helping each other and actively participating.
Too little moderation can lead to a community that bears no resemblance to the goals or objectives that you laid out when you started your community.
Taking a few lessons from some companies that run World Class Communities©, we know that it is possible to find that seemingly elusive mix of “just right.” In general, they seem to start with a clear set of guidelines for their users that are documented, accessible to all members, and enforced.
There are many community participation guidelines that appropriately address issues such as staying on topic, not using profanity, and respecting copyright laws. In addition to those, here are a few more to consider:
While it is nice to have a clear set of guidelines, we all know that not everyone will follow the guidelines. In fact, there may be times when even you don’t follow your own guidelines. Therefore, it is important to have a well thought out action plan for when people behave naturally and break the rules or just don’t quite get it right.
If you get no response, note that the correct answer has been provided. After either you or the original asker of the question verifies their answer has been received, you should close the thread to prevent further discussion. This prevents additional questions from being asked in the thread, and, for those software programs that allow it, better enables you to track questions in your forum that do not have answers.
Repeat offenders of this hard limit should not be tolerated. As a moderator, you have a few options. You can make it so all of their posts must be moderated prior to showing up to your broader membership. Once you believe they have consistently modified their behavior and have earned the right, you can switch back to having their posts show up in the forum immediately. (I encourage you not to go overboard and moderate your entire community because of the behavior of a few. Address the issue with the few.) If you still have issues, you have the right to ban people from your community as a last resort.
There are no doubt many more guidelines you could consider and countless ways your forum members may violate them. The key to remember is to use your instincts when determining your moderation action. Your forum or online community is a group of people engaging with each other regardless of the technology you are using. Were the behavior to take place during a party in your home, how would you react? If it happened during a business meeting in your office what would you do? Use the same social skills and instincts you have already developed in your offline world to help you make good decisions online.
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