Managing An Online Community – 10 Tips
1. Have a Code of Conduct - We would recommend having a Code of Conduct separate from your Terms and Conditions. Terms and Conditions tend to be very long and are not usually read by members. Your Code of Conduct should be short, snappy and in clear non-legal language. It should leave members in no doubt what is allowed and what is not allowed.
2. Enforce - Both your terms & conditions and code of conduct. There is little point in having them if you do not enforce them.
3. Be on the front foot when enforcing – Wayward members need to be informed; you should always be polite, even (and especially) when they are not.
4. Why is enforcement important? - It is important because you need to set the tone of your community early, before it is too late. If you take too long to set the tone and direction you may find it is impossible at a later date to steer your community in the desired direction.
5. Different day, same problem member - The same problem members crop up again and again. The frequency of this will be in direct relation to how easy and free it is to create an account on your community. The most important thing is not to give up – keep removing their accounts, until they go elsewhere. But, bear in mind they may come back again in a few weeks, so you need to be more persistent than them.
6. Two sides always - When dealing with disputes between members there is nearly always two sides to the story. It is not unusual to have an aggrieved member send chat or email conversations, which have been skilfully edited, with only the other party being abusive. It can be difficult to mediate in these disputes, but impossible if you don’t have all the facts. Also, if you have a clear policy for banning members, members will do their best to get each other banned.
7. Bans work better than suspensions- If you suspend a member they will serve out their suspension and behave for a period of time. They will then revert to type and before you know it you will be dealing with them again. Yes, even if you ban them they can come back again, but members should know that you ban, rather than suspend – it all encourages good citizenship.
8. Consider banning whole countries - This is controversial – but there are certain countries that appear to cause nothing but trouble. (It is not true; the vast majority of people from any country will be good citizens.) But, if you only have a small and not economically significant number of members from a country and they are virtually all problem members, consider banning the entire country based on IP range. It may turn out that you are actually only banning 20 or fewer members, all with multiple accounts. Also, if someone from that country does not see another person from their country on your site they may well not bother to join – even if they are only intending to spam and scam members in completely different countries. We have seen evidence that banning every single member from a particular country, (only actually a very small number) has resulted in a significant drop in overall issues related to problem members.
9. Total immersion – Now some founders may think they do not have the time to moderate or do support on their creation. Wrong. Craig Newmark does it on Craigslist partly because it keeps him in touch with the Craigslist community. You get to see the problems quickly and also the direction your community is heading. This is very valuable daily news - you just need to subscribe. Obviously this can be difficult if you are growing at a pace, but at least one whole day a week is recommended as a minimum. Also, choose different days and shifts each week to mix things up a bit. At other times keep your Chartbeat page open to watch the hourly and daily ebb and flow.
10. Conclusion - Now you may end this article thinking – wow that was a bit negative. Not at all. You need to do the weeding to let the flowers grow. Problem members will put off genuine long-term members. Problem members are also bad for business, look at the negative coverage received by Ask.fm and even Facebook regarding some of their members and content. Advertisers don’t like this and go elsewhere – mostly back to the loving embrace of Google ads on Google.com