It would be so great if every community was just organically a safe and encouraging place to be. Imagine if Hosts never had to worry about any conflict or trolls.
Well, the real world of online communities is a bit… um… messier. And that’s okay! Because the good news is, with a bit of work, your community can be that amazing place where people feel safe, know they belong, and can thrive.
The secret is online community moderation. That’s what does it. And if you’re wondering how to moderate an online community, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll introduce you to why you do community moderation, as well as the how of actually putting it into place.
And by being proactive and setting up community moderation before you even need it, you’ve taken an important step toward making sure you’ve got a place your members will love.
If you want more support in building your online community, come join OUR Mighty Community for free and meet other new and established community owners! We’d love to meet you. Join for free!
In this article...
What is community moderation?
Community moderation is monitoring the activity of community members to ensure it aligns with a set of community guidelines. Moderators can usually flag content, remove or report it, and deal with the member who violated the guideline.
Why do you need community moderation?
It would be fantastic if everyone in your community just respected everyone else… all the time.
And honestly, the majority of your members will! But every now and then, you're going to have conflict. Sometimes it comes from actual trolls who are just out to cause trouble and attack people. And sometimes, well-meaning members can get carried away in disagreements that can turn personal.
When this happens, you want to know what to do to get your community back to harmony.
Here are some reasons you need community moderation.
- Creating a safe space: the words "safe space" get thrown around a lot. But people who join a community have the right to feel safe there, either from direct or indirect attacks or aggressions.
- Making members accountable: your members should know that they will be held accountable for the things they say and do, and act accordingly.
- Getting rid of trolls: unfortunately, there are some people who come in like a wrecking ball. Their only goal is to create chaos and hurt people, for whatever reason. You need a way to get rid of the trolls to protect the valuable seeds of trust and friendship that are growing in your community.
How to moderate an online community (7 steps)
1. Create community guidelines
One of the most important parts of moderating an online community is having clear, relevant guidelines that all community members know about. In general, community guidelines will cover issues like how members treat each other, what expectations are for sharing and creating content, and occasionally information on community business practices (e.g. how to get a refund if you're unhappy with your community membership).
The guidelines are vital for creating a shared understanding of what’s expected. If you want more information on creating community guidelines, we wrote a guide in this post.
2. Educate people on the rules
If you've created community guidelines, you also need to make sure your members actually know about them. If one of your members violates a guideline they didn't know about, you can still deal with it. But it can be harder.
Here are some best practices for how to educate your members about community guidelines.
- Use the welcome sequence: the best time for members to learn about your community guidelines is right after they join! Use your automated welcome sequence to share them. You can even include a video introducing them. (When you create a new Mighty Network it will prompt you to create community guidelines with your welcome sequence).
- Be proactive: don't just wait for people to find your guidelines. Refer to them frequently, and post them somewhere in your community where people can find them if they need them.
- Tell members where to go with questions: community guidelines don't have to be a one-way street. Make sure members know who to contact if they want to learn more or have questions or suggestions.
- Refer to them often: whenever you can and it feels organic, refer back to your community guidelines. So, for example, if you're having a discussion, you could introduce it with something like, "Remember that we want to make sure everyone has a chance to talk and that nobody monopolizes the discussion, as outlined in our community guidelines.”
3. Establish the consequences for misbehavior
While it's never something you'll enjoy doing, it's important to follow through with consequences when people violate the rules. This is especially vital when a member has done something that makes another member feel unwelcome or unsafe.
And if and when that moment comes, it will be much easier to discipline the member if you establish beforehand what the consequences will be.
You can choose exactly how you want to set this up, and it will depend on your style. Some communities have a zero tolerance for certain behaviors and will kick members out immediately. Others have a two or three-strike rule.
You might also want to establish different consequences for different misbehaviors. For example, someone who cruelly attacks and harasses another member intentionally should probably be treated differently than somebody who drops a few too many copies of their affiliate link for Ray-Bans. As they say, the punishment should fit the crime.
But as always, it's up to you to lay out consequences that you feel good about, and that you know will make your members feel safe.
4. Appoint and train admins
You don't need to enforce your community guidelines single-handedly. Identify people you trust in the community, people who get your vision and interact well with others, and deputize them to be your moderators.
Walk through the rules with them. Get their feedback on the community guidelines. And show them how to deal with rule-breakers.
*FAQ: Should you pay moderators? Some communities decide to pay their moderators. If your community has a healthy financial balance, even paying your moderators for a few hours a week of their work can be a nice gesture. After all, the service they do for your community is invaluable. If your community is just getting started, there’s a good chance some of your best members will gladly do it for free. *
5. Empower your whole community
Official moderators are important, but moderation isn't just about top-down authority. The best community moderation approaches empower the whole community to create the best possible space: a culture of moderation.
Here are some ways you can empower your community members to build a moderation culture.
- Make reporting processes clear: make sure your members know how to report violations, who to report them to, and what the process will be for handling these reports.
- Encourage ‘If you see something, say something’: personal attacks or microaggression often go unreported by the victim. Encourage your members to stand up for others when they feel someone is being attacked.
- Get member feedback on community guidelines: don't just make the community guidelines a set of rules that must be adhered to. Make them a living document. Ask for feedback on them often and adapt them as needed.
6. Take action
This is the hard part. All this background work doesn't do much good if you look the other way when the rules get broken. It will be hard at times, especially the first time you discipline a member, but take action to enforce the guidelines you've created.
Even if it's difficult, remember that the challenge of dealing with one member will make your community a better, safer space for many others.
7. Keep a record
If you’ve taken action on a community moderation, consider keeping a record somewhere. This might include a screenshot of an offensive post or any correspondence you have with someone you’ve had to discipline or remove. It’s helpful for you to have these to refer to if needed.
Although we’re talking about some serious issues in this post, we should remind you that community moderation is a muscle that doesn’t need to be flexed too frequently. Many community Hosts will go months and even years without serious community moderation.
But if there is a problem, you’ll be thankful you put these guidelines into place.
Ultimately, it all comes down to building great culture. And that's why you need to choose a great cultural software platform.
If you’re looking for a place to build and host your online community, why not come build with us? Mighty is an all-in-one community and course platform that gives you a whole set of content tools: articles, video, live streaming, questions, polls, and events.
And yes… it comes with moderation tools built in.
Try it for 14 days free – no credit card required.