How to Moderate an Online Community. A List of Skills, Tips, and Tricks
Moderators can make or break an online community! Here are a few tips I’ve learned from moderating communities of thousands of people across different platforms (Slack, Facebook, Clubhouse)
We all love a place to (virtually) hang out, ask questions, meet like-minded people, and learn/share knowledge.
Moderators can make or break an online community!
I’ve been some sort of a community glue for a while now — from managing a coworking space and all its events & people around it to being part of a team moderating a Slack Workspace with +30k people.
(maybe it is worth mentioning that there were a couple of Facebook groups with thousands of people in between too).
But this post is about what I’ve learned and a few tips to keep a clean, respectful, and insightful community engaged (and not about me, ofc).
First of all, you will need to arm yourself with a lot of coffee, tea, or whatever keeps your energy and patience up. ☕
🧐 Skills you need to moderate a community
- Be Dynamic.
Each community is different — moderating a Clubhouse room vs a Facebook group or a Slack Workspace is a completely different experience!
Ensure you facilitate a welcoming atmosphere, adapt to their discussions, and support members in order to help them feel comfortable and social.
By doing this, moderators will not force conversations, but instead, the community will lead their own conversations and provide answers to others within the community guidelines.
- Use your eagle eye to spot words, as you would do with body language
Online communication has its nuances — so, you will need to differentiate the tone of v̶o̶i̶c̶e̶ writing between the lines. You will have to spot the good, the bad, the sarcasm, the fun, or the neutral in order to minimize damage and maximize value in the conversation.
This will lead to higher quality in the conversations and a respectful, but fun space.
- Facilitate and mediate
This is one of the most important skills you need. Drawing the line between trolls, haters, someone having a bad day, or someone expressing themselves poorly is key. And so is when the conversation gets heated and you need to bring everyone on the same page, without being condescending or disruptive.
- Cut through the noise
Differentiate valuable insights and irrelevant discussions, draw the line between different verticals and topics and redirect people to the right channel (if we think about Slack), topic, or thread. Distinguish the difference between genuine mistakes and product placement or spam. Create a space for people to discuss all sorts of topics, without making the entire community feel overwhelmed, noisy or irrelevant, yet welcomed and free to open various topics. Sounds complicated (because it is!), but it is an amazing experience!
💬 Tips and tricks to keep the conversation flowing
- Welcome people to your space and ensure everyone gets an introduction. At the end of the day, we all deserve a moment to shine when we enter a new space, right?
- Start conversations: no matter if it is just a nice good morning! how’s your day or a very hot topic (ie — what do you think about the latest technologies in the AI industry), sometimes you will need to be the one to start it. No worries, no need to be an expert, you can just ask genuine questions and read what others have to say until the conversation has its own momentum.
Do not forget that the point is to keep the conversation on, not for you to debate :)
- The thing I like the most about online communities is the level of the resourcefulness of every single person! Each comment will tell you something about the person who left it there, and you can learn from it.
Or you can use it to match people, to shoutout experts when needed, or to add value to any conversation.
- Cleaning. There will be lots of moments when people will blatantly promote themselves (or spam), they will be rude, or just breach some community guidelines you’ve set. Now, do not start a war!
A kind and polite message to the entire channel/thread is always good — it reminds everyone about the guidelines, they will see the efforts taken to keep the community relevant and it also serves as a good moment to show people how to engage in a conversation.
Of course, if this will not work, you can always DM people about their behavior, and if this does not work either, you do what you have to do (E.g., remove the person from the community).
Additionally, people get to learn who is moderating and what type of things are against the rules, and they will even help you moderate and tag you when needed — which is absolutely awesome!
- Be flexible. Needless to say, you will have plenty of conversations, and as a moderator, you do not have to agree nor disagree with all the points of view that will be expressed. So, you will have to ensure there is a respectful conversation, no matter if the topic is going in the direction you like or not. It is about the people!
🎧🎙 Moderating on Clubhouse
Clubhouse is a different beast! A great beast, but wildly different than the ones we’re used to.
But here’s what I’ve learned in the few weeks I’ve been there up until now — both as listener and mod👇
- stay on topic
- reset the room once in a while: which means, people drop in and out constantly, meaning that you will have to recap the convo and the topic for everyone once in a while, so they do not get bored or lost.
- facilitate like there is no tomorrow: people will want to speak! speaking over each other is awful, so you will have to pay attention to everyone who tries to unmute their mic to talk and does not get the chance, or to stop the ones who keep talking over others.
- bring people up and give them a voice. Clubhouse gives you the power to give a voice to every single person in the room with you. So, check if they raise their hand, or just look at their bios, see if they are on the same page with your topic, and bring them up to speak. It is the only way to engage with them, and offer a warm welcome in your room.
- resettle the stage: mute the mic of the ones who are just trolling or who are rude, place them back in the audience and bring other people up.
Refresh the conversation: Also, to keep the conversation interesting, I always recommend refreshing the panel as well. while you are a moderator and there will always be a couple of people to discuss, is highly important to refresh the panel and change the people on the stage from time to time in order to have multiple opinions (or just for simple Q&A sessions).
Then again, please take this with a grain of salt, as I only joined Clubhouse in mid-January, so my experience here is extremely limited. But I already spent (too!) many hours there, and even had the pleasure of moderating a couple of amazing rooms.
🤓 Action-points you will learn on your own, but I will also drop them here:
- open clear channels/topics and even create one for the public to discuss with the mods and ask anything.
- open threads with specific topics, so the conversation does not go in various directions.
- give them space for themselves as well — we all hate spam and self-promotion, but we do want to talk about what we do. So, provide space for that as well (E.g., on a Facebook group I open a thread, once or twice a week, to post about your own articles, projects, etc. On a slack workspace, there is a special channel for that.)
- be kind and gentle, but firm in your answers when enforcing a rule or when you explain something.
- organize recurring events and/or posts. this keeps people with certain interests engaged and gives them a day/hour to meet like-minded people (especially if the community is big)