All Good Things, In Moderation: Why a Healthy Comments Section is Critical to Your Community
A community is only as strong as its members and their interactions. Regardless of the vertical it operates in, in order for a community to truly be healthy, expand and continue to thrive on a growth trajectory, its members – the core foundations who not only contribute to time spent on a site but ideally also contribute their voice and opinions within the comments section – need to feel safe, respected, and above all – heard. This is why commenting moderation is a crucial part of any community incorporating comments. By moderating the comments within your community, you are not only protecting your brand and site, but are also ensuring that only respectful, civil and constructive dialogue is taking place. This, in turn, creates a space where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas—which is essential to any continued discourse which serves as the pulse of a healthy community.
So, What’s a Publisher to Do?
Moderation can take many forms – while some communities can rely on key members or a more homogenous makeup of its members to keep things more or less “self-governed”, other communities may benefit from a more cautious or even aggressive approach, depending on typical subject matter, audience makeup, and how potentially volatile a community can trend. Comment moderation is the process of reviewing comments before they are made public. While with the former scenario, the majority of weeding and pruning of comments can take place after they are live and receive feedback, in the case of the latter, this likely means reviewing comments rigorously prior to them being published at all, in the interest of maintaining both community and brand safety.
You might still be asking yourself, do the comments really matter and just how much does moderation factor into this? In short: Yes, and more than you may think. First and foremost, when done right, moderation helps to create a safe and welcoming environment for all members of the community. When people feel like their voices will not be heard or respected, they are less likely to participate in the discussion at all, as well as less likely to spend as much time in “lurker mode,” reading through the comments. While not always the loud and vocal faction on your site, it’s these “lurkers” who end up spending deeper sessions on your site even if not participating via active commenting, and as a publisher you most definitely want to make them feel safe and welcome. Additionally, moderation of comments helps to ensure that only constructive, community-appropriate and brand-safe dialogue is taking place. This is essential not only as a community-building tool, but as a measure of protection when it comes to the monetization of your pages and any advertising you run across your site. Lastly, comment moderation helps to keep the discussion on topic. By acting quickly and removing off-topic or irrelevant comments (spammy comments that irritate us all, for instance!), you can keep the conversation focused and productive, in turn providing more value for those taking part in the conversation.
Bad Apples: Types of Comments to Consider
There are a few different types of comments that should be deleted in order to maintain a healthy online community. First, any comment that contains offensive or toxic language should be removed, or better yet, kept from seeing the light of day on your site to begin with. This includes slurs, profanity, and personal attacks. Additionally, any comment that contains spam or promotional content or potentially malicious links should be removed as well. This includes links to commercial websites and posts that are primarily self-promotional in nature, which may not be malicious in nature, but are likely annoying to your user base. Finally, any comment that derails the conversation or veers off into tangents should likely be reviewed if not removed. This includes irrelevant remarks and off-topic discussions.
Of course, not all comments will fit neatly into one of these categories. Use your best judgment when deciding whether or not to delete a comment. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and delete the comment. It’s better to remove a comment that may not violate a specific policy than to allow a harmful or offensive remark to remain posted, particularly if that comment is part of an ongoing pattern of abuse or toxicity.
Tips for Effective Comment Moderation
There are a few things you can do in order to make sure that your comment moderation efforts are effective. First, make sure that you have clear guidelines for what types of comments are allowed and what types of comments are not welcome, as well as being clear with your users on what actions may be taken in cases of policy violations and why. These guidelines should be posted prominently so that all users are aware of them. Additionally, make sure that you have multiple moderators who are responsible for reviewing and when needed, responding to and/or deleting comments. This will help to ensure that all comments are reviewed in a timely manner. Finally, make sure that you take action in response to violations of your guidelines. This could include issuing warnings or banning users from posting future comments.
If you’re not already moderating comments on your site or in your app, now is the time to start! Not sure where to start? Need help? We’re here to help! Fill out the form below and get in touch with us.