Moderation is the Key to Longevity

A guest post from Mzinga’s Director of Moderation Services, Michael Pascucci

Now I am not too sure who initially “coined” the phrase, and I am sure that whomever had was not referring to Online Community Moderation, but that phrase has always stuck with me for some reason.

How you manage and moderate the content that is posted and the members that interact within your community platform is just as important as which tools that you are going to implement. “If you build it, they will come”, but will they stay? “How can we encourage members to continually visit and actively participate within our community? Once the content is posted, what rules should we enforce, and how should we enforce them?” These are just a couple of questions that are typically asked by potential clients, and when it comes down to it, next to the tools that you are providing, Moderation and Management is the key to a successful community.

Online Community Moderation has been described in many ways/shapes/forms. It originally began as the simple act of removing content and members who violated a specific policy. It has evolved over time (as does everything) to also include (if necessary) the proactive seeding and posting of content, managing the content and member accounts, as well as facilitating interactions and welcoming new members.

Companies choose to moderate content within their online communities for a number of reasons: to protect their brand, manage content and their members, eliminate disruptive activity, stimulate discussions and facilitate interactions, mitigate risk….I could go on, but I think that you get the picture. Moderation – in some way/shape/form – is an extremely important aspect of a successful online community, and one that should not be taken lightly or overlooked entirely.

To put this into everyday terms, how many times have you been to a restaurant, and said, “This place is nice, I would come back again”. What were your reasons? Good food? Clean environment? Friendly staff? It all comes down to impressions. If your restaurant does not provide those experiences, odds are that you will not see much return business. But if you do provide those experiences, you can create a loyal following, build up your clientele, and leverage the power of your community to build your brand awareness-  Word of mouth advertising – it is free if you can implement and manage effectively. Providing a safe and well-lit area for members to interact with one-another is key to its’ success.

Moderation services within your community may also depend on where your community stands within its’ lifecycle. During the initial stages, your community may need content, and you may be tasked with seeding that content, facilitating conversations and sparking interactions. This phase may also require a lot of management of the content and your members, since members will always try to figure out what they can/not get away with. During the next stages, you may pull away from the seeding of content, because your community has grown to a place where they can survive on the content that they are providing for one-another. However, the management of the content and your members may require additional time and focus. At that point, you may also review the content and begin to develop reports around the health of your community, and what issues that you may recognize. The key here is to be flexible, and to recognize what Moderation technique to focus on, depending on where you are in the Community Lifecycle

Just remember, building a successful community is not simply building a great place, in a great location, with great tools; it is also about the continuous management and upkeep of your area, providing interesting content and an inviting atmosphere. It is an investment, but one that will pay itself off.

Michael Pascucci

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  • Mike – nice job! I work with you and I still feel like I learn something from you every time I listen to you talk about moderation. You’re a pro!

    -Janet, thanks for this opportunity. Make sure you make Mike let you guest post on his blog (or mine) sometime in the near future!

    Best,
    Aaron | @astrout

  • Janet

    Good idea Aaron, I’ll do some arm twisting for sure!
    ( -:

  • Andie

    Thank you for this post Michael. I will use it to explain to my manager why I need to spend more time cultivating our forums, creating a welcoming environment for users, and encouraging new discussions to grow. I’m not a cop I’m a conversational gardener.

  • Aaron,

    Great idea. Janet, you are more than welcome to guest post on one of our blogs, and thank you so much for the opportunity here.

    Mike

  • JD

    Are there general guidelines for moderation? In particular like how to set up a policy when you have multiple people moderating a community? This all seems like it is more labor intensive than a community is worth.

  • JD,

    The best way to avoid any questions or confusion is to develop and enforce a clear and decisive “Terms of Service” or “Board Usage Policy.” Having multiple people moderate a community should not generally be an issue, as long as it is understood how enforcement of those policies should be handled. If that is not done ahead of time, the result would be wasted time deciding how to handle each piece of content – and the enforcement would depend on the Moderator – likely inconsistent.
    Launching a community is not as easy as most think, but the benefits are priceless.

    Mike

  • Janet

    Every company should have their own guidelines based on corporate policies and culture. There are some basics of course, like these from Sybase http://tinyurl.com/4l6wkm , but you can go a lot deeper into how you want to create/direct/moderate the conversation.

    As for labor intensive, yes, running an online community can be labor intensive, especially at first, but the return is well worth it.

    Creating a place where you can talk directly to users and they can communicate on a personal level can be hugely rewarding.

  • Nice post here, Mike. Moderators’ work in communities is critical. More than anyone else on the client or vendor side, really are on the ground inside the communities and have the pulse of what’s going on.

    Without good moderators — and a set of good moderation guidelines — communities can become chaotic in a hurry.

    At LiveWorld, we have our customers post a clear set of community standards, or “rules of the road” on the site in a place where members can easily find and follow them. Internally, our moderators have their own set of moderation guidelines, which guide them on the actions they should take if/when violations occur. Taken together, those two sets of standards guide both community members and moderators alike and form the foundation of a well-managed community.

    Bryan Person
    LiveWorld social media evangelist

  • I will use it to explain to my manager why I need to spend more time cultivating our forums, creating a welcoming environment Rel=nofollow for users, and encouraging new discussions to grow.

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