3 Ways to Moderate Your Online Community
Online communities have different purposes. Some are geared more towards informed discussions about certain topics while others are meant more for social interaction between participants. With these types of communities, computer users can engage in conversations that allow them to think more deeply about a topic, help others with a particular problem or simply meet with others with similar interests. Most online communities have some type of moderator, who may play different roles within the online community. While a moderator is often part of the community, the individual may also have to take on disciplinary duties, depending on issues that come up within the community. Balancing their different roles can allow moderators to help to build effective communities encouraging active discussion but discouraging bad behaviors such as verbal name calling.
Moderators often play a major role in developing and enforcing specific guidelines for online communities. With community management, they need to make sure that participants are aware of the guidelines as soon as they become members. Enlisting the help of longtime members can allow moderators to communicate that participants are an important part of building a safe, productive online community. These individuals can also help them in monitoring the communities. The guidelines developed for communities depend upon their type and structure. Online forums for children tend to need stricter guidelines, in terms of language and content, but other types of communities also need guidelines related to what is not allowed.
When online community members break rules, moderators need to step in and take on disciplinarian roles. The punishments that they dole out should be based on the actions of the member as well as the guidelines for the forum. Moderators may only issue warnings to members that certain behavior is not allowed. Sometimes, they need to ban participants when they make inappropriate comments or post offensive content that can have a negative impact on the online community. When enforcing guidelines, moderators want to do it privately and in an unbiased and fair manner. It is important that they respect other people’s opinions and only act as enforcers when necessary so that the communities become a free exchange of ideas.
Moderation doesn’t just involve being the enforcer. In many online communities, moderators play an active role in facilitating conversations. They may bring up ideas to get a conversation going or contribute in such a way that they steer the conversation in a certain way. When discussions are supposed to be related to a certain topic, moderators may need to make sure the conversation is focused on that topic. When facilitating conversations, moderators want to show that they are as invested in the topic as participants. By taking more active roles in online forums, they can be part of the community building process. If members start to have conversations on other topics that are also important to the community, moderators can develop subgroups geared towards that subject matter. One online forum often leads to multiple communities as members develop relationships and branch out into other topics of discussion.