Community Management Basics: Tips for Choosing and Managing Moderators

moderator chosen by community manager

One day your forum may grow to the point that you may want to consider adding moderators to help manage your community. A moderator (or Mod) is a member of the community that can be given privileges beyond normal users and can be a Godsend if you are swamped with community management tasks. Some of the powers a moderator can be given include: pinning topics, locking discussions, deleting or moving posts, issuing warnings or even banning members. In short, a moderator becomes your representative in the forum, enforcing your community rules and being your eyes and ears in the forum. For this reason, you really need to make sure you choose the right moderator and manage them correctly.  But how can you select the right person in your community? Below we have come up with some tips for choosing (and afterwards managing) moderators. We hope that they come in handy.

Choosing A Moderator

Since choosing a representative for you and your brand is crucial to the community, make sure you take the proper time for your decision. Regardless of how long you take, discussions about who should become a moderator should be done in private, either via email or personal message. Talking publicly in your community about moderator selection will only add drama to your life that you don’t need. Besides keeping the discussions private between you and the selective candidates, here are some traits and questions to think about when selecting a moderator:

  • Have they been campaigning to be a moderator? The best moderators tend to be ones who are reluctant (but willing). Be wary of anyone asking or contacting you for a position as moderator.
  • Do they understand your goal or mission of the community?
  • Are they passionate about the topic?
  • Do they actively participate in the community on a regular basis? Over an acceptable timespan (more than 6 months)? It’s not so much post count, but do they visit on a regular basis without being prompted.
  • Are they someone who reports violators of rules of the community to your team? (i.e. do they flag posts, or do they walk by and ignore issues).
  • Do they tend be even-tempered in their behaviour and their responses, including rational with the irrational and patient with the new?
  • Do they follow the rules themselves? Might be a bad idea to select a moderator if they don’t follow your rules.
  • When they add comments to a discussion are they detailed and full of insight, or are most of their comments monosyllabic?
  • Are they well respected by others in the community ?
  • If you have an existing Mod team, will their personality fit in with the rest of the mod team?

When selecting a moderator, you may want to ask other moderators for their opinion (if this is not your first pick), or from others within your company that may propose an interesting selection you might have missed.

Managing Moderators

Once you find the right moderator, you cannot put your community on auto-pilot and hope your new moderator “gets it”. The moderators are your representative in the community, so it’s important to train them, but also share your expectations with them. The end goal is to ensure consistency with how they moderate the community. Here are some things to consider when it comes to managing your new moderator:

  • Create a space for moderators to chat in your community among themselves and you.
  • Encourage them to ask questions, seek guidance where they want clarification.
  • Monitor their actions and correct where necessary by providing polite constructive feedback.
  • Make sure they share with you major decisions like when they delete content, close a discussion or ban a user.
  • You still have the duty to moderate, but in your role as a community manager, you will want to ensure consistent application of the rules.
  • You may also wish to create some moderator guidelines, not only because it will help them, but it will help you if your community continues to grow and you need more moderators.
  • Some communities use a probation period to make sure new moderators capture the right tone.
  • Take proper time to review how they are doing and provide feedback.

Rewarding Moderators

Being a moderator is usually a volunteer (unpaid) role, but that does not mean you cannot reward them in other ways. Make sure to say thank you and encourage them in private and public. Involve them in discussions about the future of the community and listen to their suggestions.You might consider sending them some swag or the occasional gift. Sometimes even a small thank you card in the mail can go a long way in making people feel valued for their contributions.

Final Thoughts

Nobody is perfect. Sometimes in spite of your best intentions you might choose the wrong person to be a moderator. Do not be afraid to remove a moderator if you made a mistake. Leaving a bad moderator in your community can cause damage to your community and even worse, member morale. Act quick and fairly. If you’ve tried to correct their behaviour and things have not improved, sometimes it’s just time to move on. Do not discuss the issue in public as much as you may be tempted and don’t be shy to try again.  With the experience under your belt you will get better at not making the same mistake twice.

Now it’s your turn. What tips do you have in choosing a moderator? Share in the comments.