One of the most under appreciated and hard things to do in digital media is social media community moderation. Any digital media strategy worth its weight in salt will focus on creation of a community that drives your brand and serves as an early warning system for customer service issues and trends.
But community moderation is damn hard. Because authority is not with the moderator but with the community members itself. So here is our list of rules on how to get it right.
Foreword: As Moderators the way we interact with members defines the community. A good community is a group prosperous in ideas, which values its members, makes perspectives more meaningful and leaves their lives enriched. Here is how we see the ideal way of managing such a group as a moderator.
1. Every post is equal. Any idea or thought can gain a following, and no one should have the power to decide otherwise. A post gains traction based on its reception by members of the group, not on what the moderator thinks is appropriate. Encourage and support the interaction; you have no right to kill it. We just used a semi colon correctly in that last sentence so heed our wisdom. We’re obviously uber.
2. Contribution counts for more than being a moderator. Being a moderator DOES NOT MATTER. Being a contributor does. It is the life breath of a group. If someone is contributing for the first time nurture them so they contribute more. If your interaction results in less contribution you have failed. If your interaction results in them becoming regular contributors you are an excellent moderator. Nurture not puncture.
3. Authority trickles up. The person who resonates with the group commands more respect and attention than others—and theirs is the real influence. These are the guys posting every day and getting responses, starting debate. It can be anything really but they are the ones with the authority. The moderator is subservient to them, not greater, not even their equal. As a moderator if you have served them you have done your job.
4. Leaders serve rather than preside. Speaking of serving, in the community every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behavior are the only way for getting things done through other people. Forget this online, and your followers will soon abandon you…. And turn into an e-mob from hell. Oh yeah it happens!
5. Topics are chosen, not influenced by the nature of the group. Look, people choose to talk about things that interest them. Let it be. If it’s not 100% in line with your community don’t throw a fit. If it is never about the community interests then have a chat with the person privately to at least have them shift their focus. Let the people talk about whatever interests them. Tattoo on your behind that “debate is the currency.”
6. Power comes from sharing information. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and time, and do it consistently and quickly. If you do so you are moderator material. Because you have earned your influence.
7. Community members have a veto. This community is not ours, it is not the moderators’ or even the founder's. It belongs to the members. If they feel something should be done otherwise than it should be. Moderators need to be active listeners so that they crowd source how a group should be run and what it should focus on.
8. Recognition is the greatest of moderation gifts. There is nothing greater then recognition to enable a feeling of community and foster great dialogues. As a Moderator if you are not encouraging and recognizing people, sometimes even for just simply speaking out, than you are missing the greatest part of your duty.
9. Trouble makers are heroes. You will always get trouble makers with strong anti authoritarian views. These are your greatest challenge. Integrating them is the greatest skill of a moderator. Giving up on them by banning them is your failure. They have something to say which often encourages debate. And debate is our currency. Escalate if you cannot manage them. Do not ban them.
10. Celebrate disabilities. If someone has poor English, or poor knowledge of your topic, or posts old news, or reposts something posted often, this is a great opportunity. Reward such people with informed dialogue and turn them into contributors and as a moderator you have excelled. Do anything otherwise and you have failed. Calling someone a noob should result in immediate removal of admin status and immediate banning from group. Nothing personal.
(Inspired by Gary Hamel)