Here are four ways to grow and build a moderator team in an online community.
1. Find the value for your members and moderators.
- When your community is valuable — it attracts members. You can then encourage these users to become super users of your product and to help others.
- Understanding the value add for your users is important.
- Remember, people are coming to your community because there is some value for them, which means your members are like minded and interested.
- Having a valuable community means folks will stick around long enough to want to get more involved and become moderators.
- The value add for members and moderators are often times different, and change.
2. Define user trust levels and grow super users.
- Grant experienced users more rights so that they can help maintain and moderate the community they generously contribute so much of their time to is important.
- When it’s a smaller community, do the take a penny leave a penny mentality. Encourage members to not only ask questions and seek support from the community, but to give back in any way that they can. Then, you can slowly build up relationships with these users and encourage them to get more involved.
- As your members get more involved, lead them through the various trust levels, from Visitor (possibly lurker) → Beginner → Regular → Leader. The tricky part is assigning privileges to each trust levels. So ask yourself: What are the things we need people to do to facilitate high quality discussions? Which breaks down to be qualitative and quantitative and a combination of contributions like: protecting users from damaging conversations, and liking contributions (qualitative) to bringing able to edit or merge threads, number of visits, posts read, and close topics(quantitative).
- With every level a user progresses through, they should be given a badge and more power — this instills trust. You trust your moderators to contribute positively, so give them more power to engage such as private messaging, opening new threads…etc.
- Defined trust levels are the basic groundwork to keep a forum moving smoothly. If at all possible, trust levels should attempt to break away from the idea of being a strict vertical hierarchy, and reflect more of a creative progression.
- Use the forums technology! For example, in communities I’ve run, the way you get promoted to each level was done automatically by the forum when a user did a list of actions. They could only do this up until level 3, to then get to level 4 — or a moderator. I would handpick users only from the level 3 pool, because to get to level 3, they would have had to rise up the ranks and contribute consistently.
- When you use the forums automatic features, a user going through the trust levels becomes objective. Then, it becomes more opinion based to grant their next progression as a moderator. I would discuss with other members of the moderator team, and choose the best person based on criteria.
- Examples of level 3 criteria to meet would be they had to visit the forum at least the past 50 out of 100 days, daily visits are ideal, but also often necessary, consistent replies to topics, and creation of new threads. Managing problems and escalating issues well, and using the forum and all of it’s features well.
3. Reward and incentivize
- Remember that your moderators are regulars who have been around, are involved and experienced. They set a positive example for the community through their actions and their posts. If you need advice, these are the folks you turn to first. Therefore, you need to incentivize moderators and super users in your online community.
- Make sure you have digital and tangible reward and recognition systems.
- You can reward moderators through SWAG and raffles for behavior, recognition (badge on account, content or blog post, member highlight), or exclusive benefits and events or information (product roadmap run through,feedback on beta+release version of the app,feature requests)
4. Create clear guidelines and expectations for your moderators
- Think of having a guide for your moderators like an ambassador program! Guidelines are necessary. They help you get to know your community and create a nice environment for discussion, support and connection.
- There is no one size fits all approach. You need to do the research to see what is best for your community. What type of interaction style do your members want? What kind of features? What do you need to be successful as a Community Manager?
- New moderators should feel right at home, understand how to engage with the community, and know where reach out for help.
- Being organized and having clear guidelines help save you time from answering repetitive questions. Making sure everything is organized is important. If the forum is messy, it will only cause problems and be inefficient for the users, and moderators and make your life harder.
- Have a moderator wiki, and describe in detail how to use the forum as a moderator, and include tactics on how to manage trouble before a new member posts something offensive or/off-topic. You want to be proactive, not reactive.
- Ask your moderators to commit to their duties in some way, it can be as formal as an agreement where they sign or a private message. Make sure they commit in writing and that in that agreement you mention for what length of time they will be committing for. Set a minimum for community activities they must participate or contribute to.
- Set the bar low at first or get feedback to what they think they can reasonably handle. I once made the mistake of asking for too many posts/replies per week. It was just too much for some moderators.
- Ask your moderator to commit to a timeframe and have contribution expectations. Start small, you can always add more.
- Be flexible and let people take personal time and time off from moderating. You don’t want them to burn out.