Creating an online community is a big responsibility since you need to ensure a safe, positive space for everyone involved. But it can be challenging to envision a way to regulate the countless number of online users that have access to your platform.
The best way to do so is by writing community guidelines. You can think about them as standards that outline acceptable and expected user behaviour when using your platform and participating in your community. These guidelines can then be enforced and used as a rationale for barring and removing toxic users and content. Preparing these guidelines from scratch can be difficult, so we’re here to give you some tips on preparing your own set of guidelines for community use.
Even though community guidelines serve as rules, they can also have an informative intent. Here is where you can tell your users what to expect and what types of content can be valuable to the conversation.
Community Guidelines Template: What To Include?
Once you start thinking about the rules, you will list things you might want to include. However, first things first, you need to make sure you are covering the basics. In this regard, here are some elements that you should focus on.
This is the last thing you will want in your online community since it must remain a safe space for all members. We found that 68% of audiences spend more than 15% of their time on-site reading posts and comments. Therefore, be extremely clear about which types of posts are not allowed, and outline the unacceptable behavior types in clearly defined terms, and include the consequences of failing to follow these terms. For example, a standard guideline consists of a zero-tolerance policy towards any racial, gender, or ethnicity-based discrimination, resulting in immediate removal of the offending content and a permanent ban from the community.
With the proliferation of social media, one of the basic fundamentals of online safety — not giving out personal information — has been lost. Include emphasis in your community guidelines to stay safe online, and a reminder to your users not to post personal information about themselves or others.
Some people might join your virtual space with a different intent, such as self-promoting their businesses. To avoid this, in your community guidelines template, you can include a section dedicated to the prohibition of spam content, self-promotion, and misleading content.
In a similar vein, self-promotion comments or content often appear spammy and can make a terrible first impression on the state of your platform. As such, any types of spam content, self-promoting or otherwise, should be deleted. Automatically identify word-for-word posts, hide them from view, then choose whether or not you would like to ban the user for a preset amount of time.
This makes sure that all the information in the community is accurate and follows a clear purpose without detracting from the user experience your audience gets on your platform.
When creating an online community, you’ll need to choose several moderators to ensure everyone follows the guidelines. To legitimize this process, think of the conditions a member should meet before considering a moderator position. For instance, they should be an active member of a community and should follow all the rules.
5 Tips For Community Guidelines
If you follow all the tips below, your community guidelines template is prepared and ready to build on with the minimum effort. Check out the following 5 tips that can help you prepare your own community guidelines.
State the purpose
As we mentioned above, the first step is outlining the purpose of the online community. Next, we will advise connecting it with the overall vision of your company. Finally, you need to state your goals and what you are hoping to achieve. In this case, less is more. Let’s take a look at one of the community standards examples.
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“Pinterest’s mission is to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love. That being said, not all content is inspiring – so we have community guidelines to outline what we do and don’t allow on Pinterest.”
This paragraph gives you a clear idea of what to expect from the community and the rules that the user must follow. Now, you can use this example to start your guidelines.
Create the rules
Once you finish your first paragraph, it’s time to create a list of all the dos and don’ts. Sometimes we have a concept of what is or isn’t allowed in comment content. But creating a clear, unassailable description in your community guidelines can help prevent initial violations and give your moderators a reference point that clearly defines unacceptable content. Examples of content to explicitly define as unacceptable include:
- Personal attacks
- Vulgar or obscene content
- Libelous or defamatory statements
- Anything that can be described as threatening, abusive, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable
Make it accessible
When the members read the guidelines, you don’t want them to get trapped between tons of jargon and legal terms. Instead, you might want to try to connect with them using simple language. That’s why one of the community’s standard examples is TikTok. Through a series of subheadings, users can easily find all the policies.
Apart from this, you also need to look into how new members can find the rules. For instance, you can send them a virtual welcome package that links to the community guidelines.
It’s essential to have a section dedicated to penalties enforced in violations of the rules, but this also means you need the means to moderate and implement these penalties when necessary. Usually, moderators will actively engage in enforcing these guidelines and removing the offending content.
However, hiring moderators can get expensive if your community is very active or posts controversial topics. In these cases, an automatic content moderation solution is what you need. It allows you to cut costs by playing a direct role in inappropriate content.
Even though you will have a team of moderators responsible for checking all the content, sometimes they can miss something. That’s why you should also give the users the possibility to report another member. In your community, guidelines specify how this works and where they can get in touch with you or a manager.
Also note that if your audience or moderators come across something posted to your site that could potentially violate the law, you should make sure you have an escalation policy that deals with the situation immediately.
This article has explained everything that you should keep in mind when creating guidelines for a virtual space to interact with your customers. You can use the community guidelines examples as a template to create your own set of rules. Keep in mind that you should review your guidelines every couple of months and update them as necessary to match any changes in policy.