What is online community moderation and why is it important?
Online communities allow individuals to connect with each other virtually and discuss topics with people that have common interests. Online community moderation is important because is ensures that the community rules are respected. A community moderator is a person who is responsible for overseeing the behavior of members and ensuring that discussions and comments remain respectful and appropriate. Their role is to decide whether or not to sanction deviant behavior, to answer members’ questions and to call to order people who behave in an undesirable way.
Although most members of a community intend to be respectful, opinions can sometimes differ and conflict can arise. Therefore, it is essential to have moderators to control discussions when they cross the line. It is also important to give everyone the opportunity to express themselves without being subjected to offensive or discriminatory remarks.
The other role of the online community moderator is to stimulate conversations by creating a sense of belonging within the group. The larger the community, the more intimidating it can be to join. Moderators are therefore there to encourage newcomers to express themselves and to reinforce positive behavior.
The role of an online community moderator can be summarized as follows:
- Keep an eye on posts and chats between community members
- Animate virtual discussions such as debates, online events, networking sessions, …
Tips for moderating UGC (User-Generated Content)
Create community guidelines
First thing first, you should write your community guidelines and publish them for all to see. These are a set of rules that all members agree to follow. You can use them to know when to intervene and take the right measures when a member behaves inappropriately. It is important to give feedback to the user who has broken the rules after deleting their post to explain why. If there is an altercation between two community members and the rules of conduct are not respected, it will be up to the moderator to intervene to calm the situation and restore order.
Make sure your rules are simple and explicit. YouTube sets an example with their videos such as the one about their harassment & cyberbullying policies. In that video, you hear the following sentence: “Content or behavior intended to harass, threaten, or bully others is not allowed on YouTube” followed by concrete examples. Of course, you don’t have to create videos to give your policies, you can just write them down. Feel free to take inspiration from other sites!
In other words, don’t let a problem escalate. React quickly to keep the situation under control.
I recommend that you adopt a three-strike rule to protect your community and give your members the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, there is a thin line between expressing disagreement and disrespecting a peer.
- 1st strike: Send a warning message to the member who behaved badly. Tell him you give him a second chance. You should also remind him about the community guidelines and tell him which rule they broke.
- 2nd strike: Since there has been a repeat offense, this member no longer has an excuse. You should therefore keep a close eye on his next contributions. Send him a formal email explaining that he has violated the community rules for the second time and that if he does not comply with the rules, he will be banned.
- 3rd strike: User is banned from the online community. You can remove them temporarily or permanently depending on the severity of the offense.
Don’t forget to make a list of members who received strikes. You should keep track of the number of strikes they received, when they received them and their severity.
Listen to your members
Online community moderators are responsible for the well-being of members. Therefore, they should listen carefully to members’ feedback, especially if users report a negative experience despite the strike rules and community guidelines. It’s by listening to your members that you will learn the most and know how to improve their experience. It will help you improve member retention.
You don’t necessarily have to wait patiently for member feedback: ask for it by preparing a small questionnaire. You can also arrange some interviews with your super users to ask them questions and get their opinion about your online community. The idea is to create a safe environment, where everyone can submit their ideas without the risk of being judged.
Recruit more moderators (super users, volunteers)
As your online community grows, you will find it harder to keep control of all the content posted by users. It is therefore a good idea to recruit additional moderators to assist you in this task. And what better way than to have moderators who are already part of the community.
Identify the most active members who have a positive influence on the rest of the group. Also consider members who regularly post relevant content that feeds the community. These are the people who will be most likely to help you moderate the discussion. Get in touch with them and ask them to join the moderators’ ranks. Train them and assign them a badge to distinguish them from other members. You could also give them access to preview content to thank them for their time.
Update guidelines if needed
Finally, do not hesitate to update your community guidelines regularly according to the problems encountered. There will certainly be cases that you have not thought of and that you could not have anticipated. As your community grows, the rules will have to evolve with your new needs. In any case, always be transparent with your members and inform them when a change has been made to your rules of conduct.
Tips for moderating a virtual event
Preparation is key
As an online moderator at an event, you need to make the discussion flow and put your speakers in the spotlight. This is why preparation is key: make a list of topics to discuss and relevant questions to ask. Even if things never go according to plan, by doing your research about your speakers you will be able to bounce back and keep your audience interested no matter what. Even if you are not going to speak that much, find out what topics are going to be covered so that you can lead the discussion with the expert speakers.
Also consider sending your questions to your speakers in advance so that they can prepare their answers and not be caught off guard. This will also allow your speakers to think more deeply about the topics and provide more complete answers. It is not necessary to send absolutely all your questions, just the main ones are enough and it leaves room for unexpected ones that might come to your mind during the event.
Organize rehearsals with speakers
It is your responsibility as moderator to ensure that the speakers are confident with the video conferencing platform you will be using and that they have the necessary equipment for the presentation (microphone, camera, headphones). You can also help them format their knowledge to suit your audience.
Rehearsals will be the ideal time to make sure that everything works properly and that the speakers are able to share their screen. Use these rehearsals to solve any technical issues your speakers may have and get them confident before the event. Be aware of the environment in which your speakers are located: avoid noisy places, think about the lighting as well as they will probably activate their camera during the presentation.
Ensure a quality sound environment
Sound management during the event is crucial. You must avoid any background noise that could disrupt the presentations of your speakers. Ask all participants to deactivate their microphones before the event starts and keep control. Do not hesitate to deactivate their microphones yourself if there is too much noise, such as a dog barking or a baby crying in the background.
Not only will this keep your speakers focused on giving a good presentation, but it will also be much more enjoyable for all the attendees.
Make it fun
Just because your event is virtual doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, quite the contrary! To do this, invite all the participants to activate their webcams so that the atmosphere is more convivial. Speak enthusiastically, be energetic and don’t forget to smile. Don’t hesitate to use humor to relax the atmosphere and put everyone at ease.
Facilitate the discussion
Despite rehearsals, speakers may not always know whose turn it is to speak. This is why you should facilitate the discussion by introducing your speakers. For example, you could say: “Thank you Patrick for your great presentation, now let’s give the floor to Susan who will tell us about …”.
Don’t hesitate to gently cut off someone who is talking too long. It is also your role to ensure that speaking time is balanced between all speakers and that no one monopolizes the attention. You have a time limit to respect and participants will be grateful if the event does not drag on longer than necessary.
Finally, thank all speakers and attendees at the end of the event to send everyone off on a positive note. The event could not have taken place without their participation, so it is important to underline this.
Being an online community moderator can quickly become a full-time job if your community is large. It’s a role that requires a lot of patience and adaptability but is also very rewarding as it is a key part of bringing people together and creating relationships. This article shared a set of best practices for effective community moderation.