Unfortunately, most readers wince at the thought of the comment sections that sit under the content they read each day. And it makes sense; certain topics prompt an emotional response with readers, who might forget that the people on the other side of the screen are humans, too. Such a scene is all too familiar to most online publishers and blogs.
If you struggle to keep your readership respectful of one another’s opinions, you may need to rethink your online publisher community moderation. By developing a community moderation strategy and sticking to it, you can spark quality discussion that enhances your content and keeps your readership safe.
Starting Out: Basic Community Moderation Strategy Tips
First, let’s make one thing clear: moderation should not silence opinions. Our concern here is to stifle off-topic or inappropriate comments (including spam), not silence certain opinions. Good moderation also should also encourage readers to contribute, not simply enforce rules. You want to engage your readership to build discussion—not scare them away!
Plan Your Community Moderation Strategy by Learning Your Audience
First, begin by assessing the audience to consider what should be off-limits to discussion. While banning spam, threats and trolling are no brainers, you may need to decide on other rules depending on your publication and readers.
For example, a community centered around content for children might be stricter than a news publisher’s community. Some publishers might want to limit discussion of divisive topics; others might thrive on political or hot-button issues. Meet with your team to discuss to how you must protect your readers and brand from off-topic, irrelevant or abusive discussion.
Online publisher community moderation also involves assessing the value your content should provide the community. If your duty is to inform, you might want to invite differing viewpoints from your readers in the comments section. Alternatively, you might ask readers for feedback on how you can better deliver the information they need.
Leverage Community Comments into Your Editorial Strategy
Community moderation for online publishers requires the whole team be involved: moderators, authors/reporters and even editors. This is because community comments can—and should—be used as part of your editorial strategy. For example, after an Atlantic cover story made waves online, the editors put together a section devoted entirely to its response. By curating the readers’ responses to your stories, you show them that what they say matters. When they’re aware of this, they’ll strive to produce quality responses.
Next, enlist authors and a public editor to join in on community discussion. Basically, you don’t want to just enforce community standards; you want to cultivate an engaged user base and quality, relevant discussion. By getting authors involved to weigh in on responses, answer questions or ask some questions of their own, you can set the tone for conversation and keep it on-topic.
Finally, you might extend your editorial strategy outside the comment box and into other social media platforms. With each story, think of cross-platform ways that readers can engage: a Twitter poll answering a relevant question, a call for Instagram posts (with branded hashtags) that respond to the story in some way, or something else. This expands your reach on social media and—once again—signals to readers that you care about what they think.
Moderate Community at All Hours
Chances are, you produce content each day—and your readers are discussing it at all hours. You might even get lucky and have a post go viral. When that happens, you must be prepared to handle the avalanche of comments from outside your typical audience!
It’s important for online publishers to moderate community 24/7. This can be difficult for humans to do alone; therefore, you’ll need an automated comment moderation tool to assist you. With Smart Moderation, you can collect all comments—from your website to your social media profiles and more—all in one place, then automatically moderate them if you choose. This erases inappropriate comments, spam and trolls from your website and profiles within just a minute of posting.
In our mobile world, people are reacting to content every moment. Depending on the focus of your website and the content you publish, readers’ tempers might flare the moment they set eyes on a headline. This makes it even more essential that you’re ready to deal with trolls, flame wars and other debate at all times.
Taking all these tips into consideration, you should be well-equipped to meet your community’s needs. Remember: the most important aspect of community moderation for online publishers is to understand your audience and drive quality engagement. Doing so, and using the proper automated comment moderation tool, will keep your community safe, engaged and respectful.