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How to Effectively Manage Online Communities

Managing online communities ensure that social, political and other online platforms (like social networks, website forums, and others) consist only of relevant contributions, robust engagement, and appropriate user behavior.

Launching an online community requires a moderation policy, and implementing the strategy requires a moderator. It is a job that requires a high level of skill and caution, as falling short of adequate moderation can not only make communities unsafe but also damage site reputation. It does not end there, as there’s a thin line between enough moderation and overdoing it, which can cause loss of users.

Therefore, the key to moderating online content is knowing just the right amount of moderation a community needs, depending on the structure, type of audience, issues discussed and purpose.

The truth is, sometimes negativity can even spark up discussions that will increase awareness to a societal issue or lead to a solution. Judging what type of content to weed out is, therefore, not an easy task, and in trying to keep a community safe with guidelines, the purpose of the community can be thwarted by the same instructions.

Most of the time, the same set of community management rules apply to all forms of communities, so the tips below would help in any scenario.

Personalization

Personalizing the brand according to the type of community is essential. A set of rules should be present, and it should contain all do’s and don’ts. Remember, although it is meant for the public, it is also going to be run by you, so imposing a few rules would not spoil the fun. However, these guidelines should not be difficult to adhere to and should not infringe on people’s freedom, as this is only a recipe for failure.

Guidelines should not only be for moderators but also the users, so they should be made public. Nobody wants to wait until a contribution is rejected before knowing it is unacceptable. However, while personalizing, it is important to note that community members are the soul of the platform, and they also view the platform as their own; a place where they are free to do just about anything.

Therefore, rules should not only be influenced by personal values and prejudice but also that of members. It is easy to get what members want; running an online questionnaire or having an email survey where people can voice out their opinions, concerns and contributions are ways to achieve this and implementing these contributions occasionally can go a long way in pleasing users.

Becoming a member of the community can also bring you closer to the pulse of what is going on That way, you can easily edit guidelines according to the trend that you see firsthand.

You might own the community, but running it is something that everyone has a part in.

Controlling Access

Not all issues discussed in communities are for the general public, for example, issues that might be very educational to a set of people can be extremely offensive to another. Clashing values, interest, views, and opinions are common, and although most are harmless and only a means to an end, some can be harmful.

A quick solution to this is access control, and community moderators should be able to organize content and control who should and should not be able to view them. There’s an alternative if this looks too controlling, and that is allowing users to create private groups, or even give a few users access to restrict content.

Also, it might be wise to reward users that meet specific criteria like site usage, post frequency and more. This will not only increase site usage and allow for healthy competition but also create a way to enable few top-level users to mildly moderate content. This way, the community can run itself without needing too much contribution on your part. This will result in you saving funds and reducing the workload on moderators.

Implementing Sanctions

After sorting out community guidelines and user permissions, the next thing to consider is what and how sanctions should be enforced. Regarding image moderation, it might be easy to censor the image and allow access to only concerned groups, or entirely deleting the image.

Sometimes, users might repeatedly post unaccepted and already deleted content in hopes of bypassing security. Other times, users might go entirely rebellious for all rules. Taking control of situations like these requires caution.

Suspending erring members can prove useful but completely banning a member might sometimes be the best solution. An excellent way to decide on what to do is asking yourself (or the AI, depending on what type of moderation is being used) if the member hurts the community more than helping. These kinds of questions help a ton, and how they are answered determines how problems will be solved.

However, giving offenders the benefit of the doubt is not a ‘no go area,’ and it is equally important to have users who stir up sensitive issues occasionally. This helps to draw more attention to the platform.

Crisis Management

Like any other business, online managing platforms is not as smooth as it seems. Regular shake-ups are ever-present, but those are easy to manage. A full-blown crisis, on the other hand, isn’t, if the right amount of preparation is absent.

The first step is making sure the wrong statement isn’t broadcasted during a crisis, so it’s advisable to seek approvals from appropriate authorities before making official statements to a community or social networks when a problem comes up.

It is also important to know what is and is not a crisis. Creating a panic over little issues is bad for business so unless there’s an actual crisis or PR disaster, keep calm.

A listening program can be set up to monitor the crisis trend. Brand managers and sometimes, companies involved (depending on the type of crisis), to manage the situation effectively should be worked closely. Assuring users that you are aware of the situation and are working on it also helps in calming tension.

Most importantly, act fast in managing the crisis, or you could lose a lot of users, and a good reputation can in a short space of time.

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