Your online community has launched and registrations are growing at a very satisfactory pace. It’s extremely active with several 100 posts a day and everything is peachy. Time to sit back and relax right? Heck no! One thing you should know, there’s no relaxing as a community manager. Don’t rest on your laurels and never let your guard down. There is a cost with being a large successful community. You become a target.
Spammers, hackers and solicitors alike are becoming savvier each and every day. You have to take pro-active/pre-cautionary measures to protect the integrity of your online community and its members. The community guidelines you crafted at launch may no longer be relevant today. It’s time to revisit them.
Think of your community guidelines as a living, breathing document that requires attention at the very least, annually. It needs to adapt as members’ behaviors change and as your community becomes a target for linking trolls, email extractors, spammers, hackers and solicitors. These fun and courteous visitors (I’m laying the sarcasm on pretty thick) find loopholes in your guidelines and expose vulnerabilities in your community platform. They wreak havoc by exploiting both. Start plugging those [loop] holes.
A couple months ago, I blogged about Community Management of an Online Gym and provided some community guidelines for members to follow. It’s time for me to revisit them now that member behavior has changed.
Locker Room Etiquette
Avoid invading another member’s personal space; observe a two foot buffer
Keep your eyes on your own goods. Other members are not on display for your viewing pleasure
Your gym bag does not need its own seat on the bench. Place your bag on the floor and make room for others
When was the last time you revised your community guidelines? Are they still applicable? How often do you think they should be updated?
It’s kind of a joke title, more hypothetical than anything else. But I started to realize how much my gym is similar to an online community. My fellow gym members all have common goals. We’re passionate about being healthy or getting into shape. We use it as another networking opportunity or social outlet. We even look to it for support, either for spotters, positive coaching or tips. In fact, the dedication it takes to keep going back is reminiscent of online community power users.
You can easily match up the roles in this metaphor too.
Gym Community >> Online Community Equivalent
Front Desk >> Login
Personal Trainer >> Subject Matter Expert
Housekeeping >> Moderator
Classes >> Groups
Next time you’re at your gym, take a look around. You’ll see signs posted containing the club guidelines.
- Cell phone use in designated areas only
- Re-rack your weights
- Wipe down machine after each use
- No smoking, drugs or alcohol of any kind
- Keep voices and personal audio devices at reasonable levels
- Be courteous to and considerate of others
- Wear proper workout attire
These are pretty standard across all gyms. Being a community manager myself, I would love to have a crack at writing the community guidelines for this hypothetical online gym. Here’s my spin:
- All shirts must have sleeves
- Hair dryers are for the hair on your head, not on your body.
- No grunting or sexual sounding noises when lifting. If you do make said noises, you shouldn’t be lifting it.
- Even though you’ve reached an age where you don’t care what’s sagging on your body, guaranteed other members do care. Please wear a towel at all times when in the locker rooms.
- Girls are there to work out, not to be hit on. Don’t be that guy.
Would you attend my online gym? What other guidelines would you add? Are there other gym roles that have a online community equivalent?
Soapboxers can be a tricky bunch to manage. They often carry extremely strong personalities within online communities, often replying to every post – possibly multiple times, to really drive home their point of view. Note: They are not to be confused with power users.
Based on my observations, ‘boxers post just to hear himself talk. They feel that they are the resident subject matter expert (which may be true) and all other opinions that oppose theirs are simply incorrect.
If not managed early, ‘boxers can spiral out of control. Often times, they begin to bully other members and use explicit or derogatory language towards them. The obvious outcome? Your members will be stymied (believe it or not, first time I’ve used that word) by this behavior and you’ll see an instant drop in return visits and member contributions.
Be cordial at first. Have one on one communications with the ‘boxer asking them to tone it down and respect others’ opinions. Point them to the community guidelines as a reminder of accepted behavior.
If they continue in their ways, it’s time for some moderation. Have all their posts immediately hit the moderation queue to be screened for a probationary period. This may cause more work for your moderation team, but in the best interest of the community, it’ll be worth it. What if your community platform doesn’t allow such targeted moderation? Suspend the account for 30 days. This will send a clear message that these are serious offenses and there’s no place for it in your community.
Ok, so you’ve tried everything by now and their still right back at it with their antics. It’s time to ask yourself, is it worth all the time, effort and resources to keep this member? And if you are asking yourself this question, you’ve already answered it. NO, it is not worth it. It’s time to cut this member loose and move on. I understand your hesitance, but believe me, more good will come out of banning this member than bad. New members will begin to emerge. Why? Because you once again created a non-threatening environment for all community members to enjoy.
Do you have soapboxers in your community? How did you manage them? What was the outcome?