How to Manage Spam in Your Online Forum Community
As a community manager, it’s on you to police your community to keep it free from spam of all kinds. You need to stay vigilant in maintaining a safe and enjoyable experience for your legitimate community members. Otherwise, they’ll find another community to join.
I see an effective anti-spam strategy as a three-legged stool. Here are the three legs that you need to keep up with to keep your community as spam free as possible:
Any hosted forum space worth its salt employs a filter to keep obvious spam bots at bay. Akismet is one of the most popular and can be easily added as a plugin to your WordPress blog. Comment moderation plugins like Disqus will also help you keep spammers off your site.
If your community space allows users to post links, make sure it’s configured to add the ‘rel=”nofollow”’ tag to all user-generated links. This tells search engines not to follow the link, which effectively keeps spammers from leeching vital SEO juice from your precious community.
Most hosted services will provide some kind of flood control as well. If a spambot or particularly malicious user breaks through your defenses, this feature will kick in to stop them from filling your forum or comments section with loads of useless junk.
2. Administration and Moderation
Technology is great. It’ll save you a lot of headache and hassle. Still, human intelligence plays a major role in keeping spam out of your community.
As the community manager, the buck stops with you. You can, however, appoint and equip certain users to function as administrators and moderators in your community. Trust is essential here, so opt for users who are either members of your organization or ardent supporters.
These users will be your front-line defense. Give them the authority to adjust user permissions, delete posts, and ban users and their IP addresses. Check in from time to time to make sure they’re staying on top of things.
3. Community-Driven Promotion & Suppression
At the end of the day, content quality assurance and spam protection will fall on the shoulders of every member. At the organic level, this means explicitly setting community expectations and letting your members take ownership of the space.
Make them feel as though it’s their personal responsibility to deflect spam. Depending on your setup, one of the most useful tools for doing that is the simple ‘Spam’ flag or button.
Taking this a step further, community rankings can help you kill spam before it even hits your site. By implementing a ranking system, you can reserve spam-attractive features (like linking) for users who have established themselves within the community over time.
All of this may seem like a lot. With the right hosting solution or web platform, however, you can easily put these pieces in place and maintain them without spending hours a day manually deleting spammy forum posts.
If you want to see how that could work, check out how Vanilla handles spam protection.