Community Managers: Time to Lay Down the Law

Believe me, I hate rules. I really do. But, without them your organization, product, society – any function or institution where people are involved – would eventually go off the rails. Unfortunately, dear human, it’s just in our nature.

So, we create rules to keep us moving forward towards our goals for a better society, better product or even a better life in general. Clearly, this mandate is for online communities too.

It’s a standard feature in all world-class communities. Just type the search term community guidelines” into Bing and you’ll get a long list of pages featuring the community guidelines of all the top online communities.

These guidelines are not just some obligatory element you have to add, however. Your guidelines give you, the community manager, and your team of moderators the confidence to make decisions. You have the “law of the land” to back you up when you have to delete a spam profile, a troll, or other offensive content. 

Fever Bee’s Richard Millington has a good perspective on guidelines. While I don’t think guidelines are a waste of time, I agree that putting a positive spin on your community rules or guidelines is the right approach. Tell people what they can do and they are more likely to do it.

Our guidelines here on Telligent try to cover all the basics so there is no question about what is expected in our community. If you are just starting out and working on building your guidelines, you are welcome to copy down ours and customize them to your community goals and voice. (I know when you are starting out or starting over, sometimes you just need a good jumping off point.)

However, keep in mind that you don’t want to over regulate. Putting too many constraints on your members can easily stifle conversations and snuff out your community’s fire. If your community is about promoting wildflower preservation, don’t put the kibosh on conversations that shoot off into Redwood preservation or hothouse flowers. Your job as the community manger is to guide those conversations with your own finesse, not with rules.