User-generated content (UGC) is all the rage on the web. Now that customers have the power to share their experiences and influence decision-making among their peers, brands no longer have the degree of control of their reputations that they once had. For the public, that’s not a bad thing but, for brands, this fact may be a little disconcerting. But when approached in the right way, there’s simply nothing more powerful than UGC for marketing your business and establishing a great reputation that spreads far and wide. Community moderation is all about ensuring your content works for, rather than against, your brands, even if it’s not all sunshine and roses.
Here’s how to moderate your community without being controlling:
Step 1: Establish your community rules and guidelines
Every brand community needs a set of rules and guidelines that form the foundations of a safe and healthy social space. Aside from all the standard guidelines, such as respecting others and being tolerant towards varying viewpoints, you’ll also want to establish guidelines that align with the purpose of your community. This might include keeping discussions on topic in certain groups or forums, though it’s always a good idea to have a ‘water cooler’ section where people can discuss what they want, albeit within the bounds of your overarching community rules. For a successful community moderation, you’ll need to make clear the consequences of breaking the rules depending on the severity of each case.
Step 2: Lead by example and not with authority
Brand communities are all about user-generated content and the relationships that form around it. But you can hardly expect members to participate constructively if you’re not posting value-adding content and responding to members’ questions yourself. Leading by example is essential for community moderation and helps to avoid coming across as controlling. If your community moderators are always rebuking differences of opinion or regularly removing negative, albeit constructive, feedback, members will start turning away in droves. The authority element should only ever come into play when there’s been a severe breach of the community rules and it becomes necessary for a moderator to step in and intervene.
Step 3: Choose the right people for community moderation
Community managers and moderators have a tough job to do, but it’s also one that can be highly rewarding if approached in the right way. Naturally, strong social skills are a must, since they have complex, multifaceted roles covering everything from marketing to customer service to brand evangelism. They should be able to identify and recognise great content, empathise with people’s concerns and be consistently available and communicative. Patience is another key factor, particularly if the nature of your community is such that it often gives rise to heated debates. Moderators and managers also need to be open to constructive criticism and must be accountable to the overall health of the community.
Step 4: Nurture your 1% by highlighting user-generated content
A common rule in online communities is the 90:9:1 rule, whereby 90% of members prefer to lurk rather than participate regularly, 9% contribute occasionally, while only 1% contribute heavily. Unsurprisingly, the 1% are your most valuable members, since they’re the ones with the influence to inspire other members and drive purchase decisions. In fact, the 1% is the reason why the other 99% stay, since they publish influential and insightful content that offers value to the community at large. The key to successful community moderation is to identify and nurture these members and publicly recognise them for their achievements and participation.
Step 5: Have a plan to prepare for trolls and spammers
Any community can attract malicious types, and it’s something your moderators need to be prepared for. But most importantly, they need to be able to tell trolls and spammers apart from those who might make an innocent mistake or perhaps have a momentary lapse in their usual activity. Naturally, any content that’s outright offensive and offers no value to anyone should be removed immediately. More severe cases may even warrant a ban and an apology to the rest of your members. Less severe cases, by contrast, might warrant a three-strikes policy or something similar, while peer-to-peer moderation can reduce the visibility of less constructive content that doesn’t quite fit the category of spam or trolling.