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Moderating an Online Community – 7 Tips

#1. Understanding online community research methodologies: Community research can be quite different from ad hoc research. Research goals may range from answering only one question over a few days to pursuing many questions and topics. The key here is to understand the goals of the research in order to moderate properly for the study objectives. Understanding the methodology allows those moderating the community to know how much detail to provide, how to phrase questions, and when to probe and follow-up.

#2. Engage early and consistently: Prior to the launch of any online community, a plan should be in place to determine how to engage members as soon as they join. This plan should be ready to be executed as soon as the community is launched and drive initial participation. Throughout the life of the panel, constant feedback and follow-up engagement should also be implemented. Examples involve sharing articles or incorporating news feeds relevant to the community members and providing quick follow-up feedback regarding member participation in community research.

#3. Pinning the main questions: To make discussions easier to follow and participate in, key questions the moderator asks should be pinned somewhere (preferably at the top) of the discussion group. The names of each discussion group can be the research question, which will help community members readily understand the topic being discussed.

#4. Pop-up announcements are your friend: Utilizing pop-up features in a community software platform will help with engagement, moderation, and management. Rather than having the moderator post details over and over again, create a pop-up announcement to inform community members of details that do not fit directly into a discussion group.

#5. Keep it simple: Depending on the audience, it is generally best practice to stay away from language that is too technical, trendy, or ambiguous. Community members want to provide straightforward insights, which will come from being asked clear questions.

#6. Be creative: There are ways to “spice up” a relatively boring topic. Think of all the long and un-engaging surveys you may have completed and turn questions into punchy, insight-focused statements. This may include developing a research game for members to participate in. Prizes help too! Check out this article on 6 Creative Ways to Present Your Market Research Data for more ideas.

#7. Last but not least, have fun: This is definitely a huge benefit of moderating an online community. If you interact with community members and show that you enjoy conducting research with them, odds are members will feel more comfortable opening up and sharing their insights.