I was recently asked about best practices for moderating a private online community. Since Higher Logic provides software for professional, association, and business online communities, I was surprised to hear the term, "moderation."
Even though I am in the trenches working with organizations every day to plan their online customer and member communities, I rarely come across the concept of moderating an online community. It seems to have been replaced by "community management." Let's look at why this is.
What is Online Community Moderation?
Moderation, in the traditional sense, is rarely a viable or effectively model for most business online communities. Historically, moderation has included reviewing interactions, comments, and content after they are submitted to see if they are appropriate for posting. It also included scouring the community for inappropriate posts and then following a define procedure for addressing the content and the member who posted it.
Under this model, moderation becomes a full time job for most B2B and online member communities. Most companies and membership organizations do not have a resource to spare to be the full time moderator (communities that need heavy moderation often outsource this role).For this reason, most online communities have switched to a community management model.
Online Community Management is a More Strategic Approach
While still hands-on, online community management is a much more strategic way to oversee, monitor, and grow a private online community. Though it includes moderation activity (Richard Millington wrote a good post outlining a broader vision of moderation), it also includes content coordination, proactively addressing members' needs, engagement activities, and reporting to senior management.
Since private online communities include a lot more functionality than discussions and comments, such as content tools, email marketing, event management, idea aggregation, and more, online community managers bridge the gaps between business goals, customer needs, and the social features available to them in their online community platform.
While there are certain types of online communities that need high levels of traditional moderation, like online communities geared toward children, most private online customer and member communities utilize a combination of self-policing and online community management.
What has your experience been with online community moderation or community management? Add your experience in the comments below.