Corporations, media organizations and even political campaigns are launching online communities left and right seeminly. Many of them are doing so without having any real knowledge of what makes a good online community go or how to manage the community if it flourishes.

Matthew Haughey from the massively successful community site Metafilter has a good post up providing some tips. Here are some of his key points with my comments:

(1) On how to lower the number of trolls and flame comments:

If you gave readers a real profile page on a real community system at a newspaper site, I suspect the quality of contributions would go way up. Of course, you’d still get trolls and griefers trying to game the system, but the remainder of readers would post more often and post better things. Heck, you could even let readers connect to their friends that also read the site and offer tools useful to members (like “your friends liked the following articles”) as well as gain additional traffic from repeat member visits.

Yup. Community isn’t about just allowing comments – you need to give people the ability to create an online identity they receive recognition for. This kind of ownership increases participation and accountability.

(2) On the fact that moderation of the community is a full time job:

If you’ve got an existing site/service that you’re planning to add a community or social component to, don’t expect someone with a full workload to simply take it on and spend a few minutes here and there maintaining it. Your best bet would be devoting someone full-time to the effort.

Agreed. Don’t go in thinking this will be a hobby.

(3) On the need for moderators/site owners to participate in their own communities:

Be the best member of your site. Lead by example by participating as much as you can in your own community. This is a good way to attract other well-intentioned members of your site and also reminds everyone a real person is behind it all and building the best community they can for everyone. Speak honestly and be supportive of other members. When I think of all the communities I’m a part of, the ones I love are the ones I see the creators using everyday.

This is critical. Moderators/reporters/politicians/staffers/etc. are often distant figures on their own community sites. They don’t participate in discussions or explain moderation decisions. Having an active, human presence in your own community will lead to better behavior and more thoughtful participation by community members.

The full article is worth a read. <Via Mathew Ingram>

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.