Moderation - how to do it without it being all you do

If you’re having any kind of conversation online - from a Facebook page to a blog or a community forum - moderation is important. You need to keep an eye on what people are saying about you, and keep conversations going with your key audiences. This can be resource-intensive, and can often put small community organisations off social media altogether. Follow our top tips for moderation, and make sure it doesn’t hold you back.

1. Be realistic

Be realistic about your moderation requirements. Your Twitter feeds and Facebook pages probably don’t need 24-7 moderation, a community forum on your website, might, (as you may be held responsible for content on a website you own). Don’t panic though! There are ways around this (read on), but you need to look carefully at all of your channels and decide what you need to do, who’s going to do it, and ultimately if the end (impact) justifies the means (resource).

2. Calculate the reputational risks

For many organisations, ‘reputational risk’ is a phrase that causes instant panic. Remember, handling negativity well can actually boost your brand - not damage it. What’s more, social media can greatly improve your relationships with key audiences, and give you a (good) reputation you simply wouldn’t have without it. Weigh up the pros and the cons for your organisation carefully.

3. Don’t be afraid of debate!

Not everyone is always going to agree with you, and actually, that’s a GOOD thing! It means you’re having a conversation, and it’s interesting, and people are going to follow it - and you - as a result. You can always politely disengage with the outright offensive, but be calm in the face of criticism, accept others’ opinions, and keep talking to your critics. While you may never agree, by being open, honest and transparent you can agree to disagree.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff

It may be tempting to wade in and correct every misconception about your organisation, but pick your battles carefully. Does it really matter if someone gets the capitalisation of your brand name wrong? And by responding to some posts, could you just be adding fuel to the fire, or extending a negative conversation needlessly? Apply common sense liberally, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

3. Be honest about who you are

If you’re posting on a forum about your organisation, always be honest about who you are. Responding and providing relevant information is your job, and not something to shy away from. Posting positive things anonymously is!

4. Have a list of community rules

If you’re running a community, have a short, clear list of community rules. These can be as simple as ‘No abusive or profane posts’, ‘No marketing or advertising’, or ‘No sharing personal contact details.’ Any post in breach of your rules doesn’t go up, or comes down immediately. Repeat offenders are blocked. Remember to publish your rules on the website, so you can point new participants or offenders to them easily.

5. Get your users to report misuse

Make sure you’ve got a button on your website or forum where other users can report abuse or mark out inappropriate posts.

6. Consider pre-moderation

If you are worried about moderation, you can consider a system of pre-moderation. That means posts come to you for approval before they are posted on your website. Warning: this does slow down conversations, which may annoy participants, and any heavy editing will also put people’s backs up. It’s also particularly resource-intensive.

7. Make people register before they can comment

You could also introduce a system where people have to register on your website before they can post comments. This means you have their name and email address, and can get them to sign up to your short rules (or even longer terms and conditions of use). It means you can easily block users who continue to post inappropriate material. Just make sure your registration process is quick and easy, so people aren’t put off by time consuming sign-ups. A top tip here is to give people the option to receive updates and news - so you can use their email address to let them know when there’s new content on your site, or other information relevant to them.

8. Don’t be afraid to disengage

Never be afraid to disengage with rude or abusive participants/followers. If they’ve broken the rules, or you can’t have a successful resolution to a conversation, just cut them off.

9. Invite ‘guest’ moderators

If you’ve got particularly active (and trusted) users/participants, you might consider asking them to be ‘guest’ moderators, for a specific period of time or on a specific post/subject. When your community starts moderating itself, that’s when it becomes a real ‘community’.