Why Moderation Is Vital for Marketplace and Dating Startups

Written by Sigrid Zeuthen // Also shared on Startups.co.


You have probably heard about the chicken and the egg dilemma for two-sided marketplaces: how do you attract buyers if there is nothing for sale? And how do you attract sellers if there are no buyers?

There are numerous articles on the topic of early stage user acquisition for online marketplaces, but most of them don’t look any further than the problem outlined above. That’s a shame because even though you are on the road to success once you have cracked the poultry conundrum, your challenges have just begun.

When volumes start increasing, you will quickly have to change from a solitary focus on user acquisition to a split vision race between acquisition and retention. Your continued success will depend a lot on how you manage your newly won volumes.

Unfortunately, higher volumes mean more contributors and not all of them are going to be 5 star content creators. On top of that, now that your site/app is becoming popular with users, it will also be a lot more attractive to scammers, so expect to see a surge of incoming fraudulent content.

So how do you manage the quality of your content on a newly started marketplace or dating site? You turn to content moderation!

WHAT IS CONTENT MODERATION?

Content moderation for Marketplaces and Dating sites is the process of reviewing user generated content to ensure that it is aligned with the policies of your site. What you are aiming for is to curate the content users create so well that your site always meets the needs of those browsing it.

For a dating site this could mean rejecting profiles that don’t seem genuine or don’t have enough information to allow the reader to form an opinion about the person on the other end. A profile with no photo or descriptive text might for instance be a good thing to reject, because for people looking to find love, that profile is clutter and ends up wasting valuable time, that would have been better spent on finding the one.

On a marketplace, duplicate listings or posts with no pictures or product descriptions are great examples of content that should be rejected. If too much information is lacking or repeated listings become irrelevant and end up just cluttering search results taking up space that could have been filled by more relevant ads.

Whether or not you are monetizing transactions it is obvious that connecting consumers with relevant services or products every time is extremely important. After all that’s the whole purpose of your site or app, right?

MAIN GROWTH STAGE DRIVERS FOR MARKETPLACES AND DATING SITES

When it comes down to it, content moderation is really about two things:

Quality and Trust:

And as it would happen, these two concepts facilitate the two main objectives of a marketplace in the growth state:

  • Acquire new users with quality content
    and
  • Retain the ones that already found your page/app by providing a service they can trust to fulfill their needs while keeping them safe.

Let’s focus for a moment on the two concepts individually.

Content Quality

Why is quality important for a startup marketplace? Let’s take a real world example to illustrate.

In 2009 Airbnb was having no success penetrating the New York market. After looking into the issue they found the cause to be low quality pictures. They solved it by going door to door taking professional pictures of as many of the listings in the area as they could. In one month they doubled their revenue in New York.

What does this teach us? Quality content on marketplaces matters. A lot!

And the importance of quality is not just limited to pictures, it matters for text, content relevancy and the user journey as well.

User Trust

Building trust has always been a key component in business, but in the digital landscape it matters even more. Since consumers are not interacting with a physical human being, but a detached username peddling promises they have no real way of building trust with the person on the other end.

Online marketplaces and dating sites have tried to solve this dilemma in many different way ranging from review systems to requiring users to connect their Facebook page for added authenticity.

In most cases however it all comes down to the level of trust a marketplace or dating site can inject into their brand.

If a site can keep scammers away and removes illegal and unwanted content before it reaches their users, then the experience of surfing that site will feel safe.

When users feel safe, they will feel more comfortable purchasing from and interacting with strangers leading to a better user experience on your site.

The key to keeping your site clean and safe is moderation and while it may feel like a strain on the budget, remember that quality content creates trust and without trust you will not be able to build and maintain a loyal user base. Your growth is at stake, don’t gamble it away!

HOW SHOULD STARTUPS DECIDE WHAT TO MODERATE AND WHICH MODERATION METHOD TO USE?

Okay so we can all agree that moderation is one of the cornerstones to building a successful marketplace or dating site. And in a perfect world you would be able to triple check and curate every piece of content before it goes live. But Airbnb’s growth hack, taking professional pictures themselves doesn’t scale well and besides you are channeling most of your funding into developing new features so the moderation budget is tight.

So how do you control your burn rate while keeping your content quality up and your users safe?

First off, automate as much as you can! Automation has come on leaps and bounds in the last years and is now at a stage where it can really help make a difference to your content quality.

Spend some time researching moderation automation solutions and then analyze your content to understand and decide on how much can be managed by such a tool. The best tools will offer an approach that combines both filters and AI/machine learning.

But what about the rest?

When starting out your best friend is going to be prioritization. Remember your two goals of acquisition and retention? Look through your categories or content types and analyze which are most important in order to succeed with that for your core audience.

If you are a dating site and you have trouble attracting and retaining female users then your main goal should be to ensure that the male profiles are of excellent quality, because that is the commodity single women are looking for when considering your site.

Are you starting up a marketplace? Then consider where moderation will make the biggest impact. Which categories are most prone to unwanted content. Where are most users getting affected? And which type of unwanted content causes the most damaging backlash in regards to achieving your goals? Focus your moderation there!

Read here for more details on how to prioritize moderation.

AND THEN WHAT?

Your content moderation process should evolve as your site and volumes expand. It has to adjust to user expectations, budget changes and sudden spikes in content quantities.

You will make life a lot easier for yourself if you pick a scalable solution from the start and if you implement a solid content moderation strategy at the very beginning of your growth adventure.

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