With the nonstop growth of ever-more niche-specific online communities, more people than ever are finding themselves in the role of community moderator. One of the most important lessons of community moderation is that the actions that you don’t take are often just as important as the actions that you do.
No matter what form of online community you are moderating, the same management principles apply. Here, we’ll look at a few tips that moderators can immediately begin employing to ensure a healthy, growing online community.
Codify your voice and style
Even if you are your brand or site’s sole moderator, it helps to explicitly state what your style, tone, voice, and any unacceptable content or message may be. However, as your community grows, codifying how moderation is to take place and the style of interaction that moderators should use will likely become an unavoidable necessity.
Community members should be given maximum latitude and respect
Even though you may spend a large portion of your life building your web presence and managing your web community, ultimate ownership of that community lies with your fans, members, or followers. Without having that critical loyal base of community members, there would be no community at all.
Therefore, it’s generally advisable to maintain a hands-off approach, to the greatest extent possible, when it comes to moderation. As the moderator, a good way to envision your role is that of a guide rather than a ruler. The community itself is often its best ruler. And making heavy-handed or unpopular rulings is a surefire way to alienate members, damage the community and eventually set it on a course of inexorable decline.
Just being yourself and never posturing in a way that places you above other community members is an excellent idea to maintain this democratic appearance. And when real conflicts do erupt, handling them in a way that is highly responsive to the general feelings of the community is always advisable.
Community self-moderation is best
The job of the moderator is to prevent conversations from being wildly derailed and to prevent individual community members from being attacked. However, even when these things occur, the community members themselves will often find a resolution.
Controversy can be taken too far. But debate is also the lifeblood of active and vibrant internet communities. While gross violations of the rules of civil discourse should never be permitted, allowing the community to police itself and letting contentious conversations run their course is often the best option.
Knowing when to wield the ban hammer
The power to ban users from the community is the most powerful tool in the moderator’s arsenal. As such, it should be used sparingly.
Frequent contributors can often be engines of controversy and hatred. In deciding whether to ban someone, you should always carefully consider whether the net value of the person in question’s presence has been higher than their cost. The only exception to this rule, where banning an offender is almost always called for, is when threats or actual harm are being perpetrated against other members.
For more tips on running an internet community, see WebPurify’s recent post on the 22 best tech blogs.