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When was the last time that you walked by a restaurant with no one in it and decided to walk in?
chairs
Empty seats, how inviting is that?

As I have stated many times, Moderation and Management services have transformed over the last year or so. In the past, Moderation services were strictly thought of in a reactive nature – removal of content and the associated member accounts.

Now, the roles and responsibilities of Community Moderators have expanded to include a more proactive nature. Communities that are just beginning need to be jump-started. Content needs to be posted and interactions need to be portrayed within the community, so when potential members “stumble-upon” the area, they are aware of what is acceptable and allowed; what the community is geared towards. Not only that, members need to be aware of all of the features and functionality that is available to them.

Moderation services can assist with the seeding of content and active facilitation of interactions within a community to get it on track and moving forward. While some communities may need more than others, these services can be tailored to meet any companies needs.

After all, when you visit a restaurant or an online community it is nice to know what you are getting into.
restuarant

The next time that you think of an online community and how to manage and moderate it, please think of what your needs and goals are, and how you expect to accomplish them – while at the same time, taking a look from the Outside.

Moderation and Management (whether internally or externally driven) of any online community is not something that should be an after-thought, because if it is, you are already setting yourself up to sink.

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Just like in real life, you do not want to be that person that only comes around when they need something.

Over the last week (since i have been laid off) I find an amazing shift (maybe it is an obvious one for most) in the way that I find/read/learn from information on the web.

Prior to last Thursday, my daily activity – outside of working – was checking in with Facebook to see what my friends were up to, reviewing my Google reader to check up on the blogs that I subscribe to, and getting on Twitter for a little while to make sure that I was not too out of touch and keeping up with the key leaders out there. Linkedin was truly an afterthought and took a major back seat. Yea, I may read the weekly status updates emails that they send, but they did not interest me that much.

Before:

  1. Facebook
  2. Google Reader
  3. Twitter
  4. LinkedIn

Now:

  1. Twitter
  2. LinkedIn
  3. Google Reader
  4. Facebook

Future:

  1. Equal distribution

I have began a major shift in my activity within the above services, and I feel bad for the ones that I had ignored in the past, and feel bad for the ones that I am temporarily ignoring at the moment.

The fact of the matter is that you really need to think about the Networks that you have and leverage them all equally – within reason. There are many people in all of the above areas that can help you out. I have had at least 1 person in each of these areas reach out to me over the past week to discuss a potential opportunity. Thankfully!

Thoughts?

Mike

Communities are not something that can be built and then ignored. They need to be nurtured and managed. This point could not be stressed enough.

I was just reading a great article – Six ways to make Web 2.0 work located in McKinsey Quarterly and wanted to point out this quote:

“….Web 2.0 technologies are interactive and require users to generate new information and content or to edit the work of other participants.”

This is a new area of participation for most people. Some have adopted, while others are just coming in for the 1st time. Guidance is needed.

Now whether you have an internal community focused on employees, or an open community focused on the general public (consumers), you should have a concern over the types of behavior and content that is going to be posted. Internal communities are likely more concerned with employee behavior and information that may be posted which may be sensitive and not appropriate to share in an open forum (the leaking of information).
Open communities are more concerned with what is being posted within the community and how it reflects on their brand. What are members saying about their product(s),their competition, and compiling that feedback, what is their mood?

The fact of the matter is that many companies are concerned with their “Web 2.0” efforts and if/when they will succeed. I have said this in the past, and will say it again, if you build it, they will come but if you do not have the proper strategy, tools and managament/moderation in place, they will not stay. There are not many partners out there that can offer this end-to-end solution. Luckily we here at Mzinga can 😉

What concerns have you come across in your fields and discussed in the past with others thinking about “Web 2.0” solutions? I know that there are plenty out there…..

As always, thanks for reading

Mike

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

I got to reading a couple of blog posts concerning how much information that you should share online, and got to thinking how Moderation is
important in that aspect. It really struck me when I read a blog post by Jim Storer, located here.

Now, I understand that transparency is the ultimate goal of many online communities, but want to describe this sharing of information in real-life situations.

Online communities have been described as a party, with the company/business/individual, being the host. When you register on that community,  you give certain information to the “host” of the party, but there are rules and restrictions (legally) with what they can do with that
information. Then you are allowed to attend the party and share whatever information that you would like with other individuals.

You may stand/sit around with a group of 4-5 people (# does not really matter) that you feel comfortable with and interact truly open and honest, and you may mingle around the room and stumble upon others that you do not feel the same comfort level with, so you just sit back  and observe the situation and interactions, not truly participating. You are allowed to ignore those that you do not choose to interact with or do not like. You may pass your business card to some, and choose not to give it to others. You may follow up with some people with a phone call or email, and others you may not even see again.

Now to put this in Online terms, you can try and interact with some groups of people, and you can try to keep some information “close to your hip”, but the fact of the matter is that information is open and available and searchable to everyone, at anytime. You had made the conscious decision to be open in one aspect, but not as open in others, but within an online community, it does not matter. All of the information that you had shared the entire time that you were there is readily accessible.
Now I realize that there are private communities, and some tools/communities have restrictions on who can see what, but even still
any and all information that you post is openly available to anyone within that community – even those that you may not want to have that information.

I understand transparency, and I understand that many want to be open and honest – but Moderation of the content that you share online is very important. I am not saying that you should not be open and honest, I am just saying to be careful, because as my grandmother used to say, “There are a lot of crazies out there”. Thoughts?

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

This question is one that is asked time and time again by potential clients, and the answer is not as cut-and-dry as you would think.

Let me 1st state that, in general, I do not like it when someone answers a question with another question, but the fact of matter is that there are certain times and places when it is appropriate, and this is one of them.

When you think about Moderation services, there are different ways/services that you can support your online community initiative, as I have outlined in previous posts. There are also “times” associated with those “ways/services”. Outlining a strategy in advance will assist in figuring out how much time is needed – as a baseline. It is very important to have an understanding of this “baseline” coverage so that everyone involved understands the importance of investing time. If you do not invest any or minimal time within your community, it is destined to fail. You get out of your community what you put into it.

Here are some questions to think about before you discuss “How much time is needed”:

What types of UGC are you allowing?
Photo’s may be easier to review compared to textual content. Video’s may be 30 seconds, or they may be 2 minutes.

What types of Moderation will be implemented?
Are you going to review every piece of content (pre-moderate) or are you going to allow the content to be posted immediately? Are you going to allow your members to report content that they feel violates your policies (very scalable solution)? Are you planning to proactively scan content? Actively scanning content may not take as long as reviewing member reported posts – ensuring that you pay attention to the detail within the reported content, processing it appropriately.

What/Who is your target demographic?
How familiar are they with online communities? Will they need much hand-holding? Do they understand how they should behave, and what is acceptable? Is the subject or audience sensitive?

Will members accounts be managed – suspend them?

At times, members deserve/need to have a time-out. If it is indefinite, or for a month, are you going to allow them to “appeal the decision”?
Do you have a proper escalation path in place for that to happen, to be efficient? Are you requiring registration at all (easier to manage the accounts)?

Will members questions and concerns be addressed (Customer Support) within your community?

Proactive involvement is important for most every community. While the goal is to eventually have the community to be as self-supportive as possible, there is an initial investment that is needed to assist in the education and support of answering questions.

How many people are going to be involved in participating?
Is support involved? Are other departments planning to participate? Is a 3rd party supplementing your internal coverage? The more people that you can leverage to assist in this “time-management”, the better off that everyone will be. Spread the wealth, harness the power of the masses.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of questions, but just a beginning – to get the ball rolling and the juices flowing.

Thoughts?

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

Online communities are about relinquishing as much control as possible, while at the same time providing straight forward Rules and Regulations / Terms of Services Policies so that members know what is expected.

Time and time again, clients come our way with the thought that they would like to pre-moderate every piece of User Generated Content (UGC). Pre-Moderation is very time consuming and does not facilitate interactions between members within online communities – not to mention it can be very costly. If you are looking for interactions and communications between the members of your community, then you should provide the best user experience as possible. This approach can actually have a negative effect on your community.

At the same time, there are always certain times and places where pre-moderation is an effective tool. In this post, I wanted to discuss some of the situations that we think that pre-moderation can be an appropriate approach.

1. Visual content – Photo’s and video’s that can be uploaded and streamed within an online community should probably be pre-moderated. I say this because visual content can be very damaging in nature, and easily “seen”. When you think about textual content that needs to be read, you actually have to take time to read each and every post to see if a post is actual damaging or has content that violates your policies (not to mention that there are pretty good tools that can be leveraged to find this content ahead of time. Photo’s and video’s are easily looked at and can be easily viewed – especially those that are obviously unacceptable. I also realize that there are photo and video tools out there, but nothing is 100%

2. Sites that appeal to a sensitive demographic – Young children, Financial advice, Health care, Automotive Industry…there are others, but I just wanted to point out a couple. There are many rules/regulations and laws within these specific demographics that need to be followed and addressed. You do not want to be liable for information that is posted within your community based on the fact that you were not following these regulations and laws. You also want to ensure that if you do have a piece of content that falls within these laws that you take the appropriate action and report the content to the proper authorities.

3. Blog comments – If I own my own blog, and want to ensure that the content that is being posted is clean and accurate, then you may think about allowing a member to decide to pre-moderate their own individual blog. Some members want to truly “own” their blog and decide what content should be allowed, especially if it is located within their profile page. Now, they may not approve posts that attack or question their views, but in those cases, they will discredit themselves.

Can you think of other instances where Pre-moderation would be beneficial, or you have witnessed it working?

Mike

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

For those of you that have an Online Community, or have managed one in the past, you are well aware of what “Trolls” are.

For those of you new to Online Communities, a “Troll” is someone that comes to your community, and their main goal is to cause problems, wreak havoc.
Causing a problem just to cause a problem is not acceptable behavior within any community and should be dealt with in a timely fashion. Any malicious behavior should be handled swiftly.

At the same time, there are certain types of behavior that these members (“Semi-Trolls” if you will) can bring to an online community that may, and I stress MAY be acceptable/beneficial.

These members generally choose the opposite side of any story, to get into a debate with other members.
Now as long as the debate is productive, and stays within the posted rules and guidelines, it should be allowed to continue – albeit you should keep a close eye on it.
Before it spirals out of control, you should step in and let your community know that you are watching the discussion, so they are aware that specific actions can and will be taken, both against the content, and any members account.
Public debates can make a community stronger and healthier – again, as long as it can be done in a productive fashion.
It is extremely important that all members understand others views, and get the full picture, so they can form their own view (both on the member and the topic at hand).
Once a member oversteps the line, they discredit themselves within the community. This assists in bringing out personalities/views of other members.

Have you observed this type of behavior in the past? Did it help you to form a better opinion concerning a specific member or topic?

Mike

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

As I have discussed in prior posts, Moderation Services almost always extend beyond content removal and enforcing a Usage Policy.

Including, but not limited to:

  • Proactive scanning
  • Managing member accounts
  • Responding to Violation reports
  • Facilitation and Interaction
  • Customer Support
  • Reporting Escalations
  • Report Generation

I would like to touch upon the next-to-last bullet point with this post (Reporting Escalations).

There are situations where a Moderator and/or client needs to get others involved – in some cases Law Enforcement. Threats of any kind (to one-self or to others) should not be tolerated or taken lightly. Reports of abuse of any nature should be handled appropriately.

Appropriate courses of action need to be outlined so that everyone can be prepared and streamline the process. While this is definitely a “worst-case scenario” thought, escalation paths need to be defined.
In most cases, we assist in the escalation process with our clients, assisting them in defining what needs to be escalated, when, to whom, and what the client should do once they receive a report from us.
In other cases, our clients already have escalation paths in place, so we don’t “re-invent the wheel”, we duplicate what is already in place.

Have you ever been involved in a situation and were unsure how to handle it within your community? If you had prepared, would the situation have been resolved in a timely fashion?

Mike

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

Defining your Online Community policies is one of the most important steps when launching a community. Members need to be aware as to what “is” and “is not” allowed to be posted within your community. However, planning on how these policies will be enforced within your community is an effort that does not end when you launch your community. Continuous tweaking and decreasing of the “subjective” nature of your policies is an important step to remember.

All of our clients policies, and most other communities in general, have some aspect of “subjectiveness” to them. While we may try to define policies and guidelines that are straightforward as possible, there are always cases where members are unsure where the line is drawn. It is important to continually refine your policies so that your members are aware of what “is” and “is not” allowed.

At the same time, preparing for potential situations in advance is very important as well. How are you going to address content that may have a negative tone concerning your business or your product? What are you going to do when someone says something negative concerning your leadership? What if someone is giving another wrong advise? Where is the line drawn between constructive criticism/discussion and malicious behavior? These are some (definitely not all) of the questions that you need to ask yourself and others within your corporation before you launch your community. If you plan ahead and handle these situations appropriately, then your community will know where the lines are drawn. If you do not handle these situations appropriately, and address these situations inconsistently, that is where confusion comes into play. Trying to think of every situation in advance can be a daunting task, but having a baseline understanding of how certain situations are going to be handled will display to both your company and your community that you have a plan in place, and you are prepared.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mike

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a couple of stories that I wanted to share with you all, incase you have not seen them, concerning Community Moderation Services. We were contacted by ABC News, who wrote a well balanced article around Moderation services. The reporter, Ki Mae Heussner, contacted many of the major Moderation service providers which described who these people are, and why they are important. She also personally met with one of our staff members to discuss the day-to-day aspects of the position.

The fact of the matter is that these are professional people who are watching over online communities. The perception that Moderation teams are sitting around in their PJ’s all day is not the case. These positions are filled by professional individuals with Communication degrees, PR degrees and experiences, and Business management skills among others. They represent single mom’s, students, grandparents and every other demographic that you could imagine. Moderation businesses should ensure that they have a true cross-section of Moderation team members on staff so they can provide their services within any potential client community.

Just today, Mzinga also announced a partnership with Intercasting, a company that allows people to upload content within their Mobile application. The story was also picked up by Mobile Marketer, and can be read here. This goes to show that it is not just online area’s that need to have moderation services. Mobile technology services and providers is also concerned with UGC, as they should be. As businesses begin to embrace Social Networking and UGC, the hope is that they all also understand the importance of Moderation services, in some way/shape/form. Whether it is simply removing content and developing policies, or if it extends out to proactively participating and facilitating discussions, Moderation services are the key to a providing members with a vibrant and successful community.

As always, thanks for reading,

Mike

Note: Cross-posted at mzinga.com

Employment

I am currently employed at Autodesk as a Senior Manager of Online Community and Social Engagement. My team is responsible for the Customer Support initiatives across all of our Social channels.

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