August 7, 2014

Does your online business community need a moderator or manager?

A manager does a lot more than just moderate online discussions.

Target audience: Business executives, brand managers, marketing professionals, community managers, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers.

Post by Andrew Lisa

Andrew-LisaIf part of your social marketing plan is the establishment of an online business community, you may be wondering if you need the help of a moderator or manager. It’s important to understand the difference between the two, what they do and how they can help you.

I’ve been a part of forums both with and without a manager, and there are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches.

What do managers do?

As discussed in 3 Career Options for People Who Master Social Media, social media managers wear a lot of different hats. They deal with communication, moderation, engaging with users online and offline, writing community guidelines and a whole lot more.

About moderators

Moderators are registered members of your forum or community who you grant special powers to. When running forums, I’ve given moderators the ability to freeze and unfreeze accounts, delete or alter comments, delete entire threads and counsel members on forum behavior.

How to know if it’s time for help

Do you have any controversial subject matter that could lead people to post emotional or agitated content? Is your online business community frequently the target of complaints regarding content, organization or direction? Do members reach out with a substantial number of questions or concerns? Perhaps most importantly, do you find it hard to make time to give your online community the attention it needs to run smoothly?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you probably need a moderator or manager.

Ask your moderator to establish clear rules

Your social marketing manager should have experience not just with moderation but with establishing community protocols and guidelines

If you do enlist the help of a moderator, the most important thing is to establish clear and well-defined rules regarding their responsibilities, their powers, their job and their limitations. Especially when you have more than one moderator, the risk is inconsistency. Nothing drives me away from a forum faster than the feeling that different moderators come with different sets of rules.

Also, make sure your moderator visits the board frequently and regularly. This means not only should they visit the online community a lot (at least once a day, generally), but that they visit at around the same time when they can. This adds to the sense of consistency and continuity, and if a member has an issue, they should know when is the best time to seek you out.

Moderators should also follow an internal code of conduct regarding how they treat members, how they handle disputes and especially how they deal with confidential subject matter. They are the representatives of your forum, and they should handle the job professionally and consistently.

If your social marketing plan is so complex that you require the services of a manager, that’s a different level of commitment than a moderator. Your social marketing manager should have experience not just with moderation, but also with establishing community protocols and guidelines in the first place. Managers should be excellent communicators.

A good moderator will be fair and consistent.

An online community is a great way to boost your business with social marketing. Forums and communities were social media before being called social media. But the realities of the Internet’s anonymity is that disgruntled members or online vandals often abuse the power that comes with having total freedom of speech. Moderators – or in more complex cases, managers – can keep things tiny, organized and fair.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance business writer. He covers online business, social media and the blogosphere. Follow him on Twitter.

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