By definition, moderation is the, “avoidance of extremes or excesses,” and to moderate means, “kept or keeping within reasonable or proper limits; not extreme, excessive, or intense“. From the context of an online community, we moderate in order to keep the community in a reasonable state that feels safe for new and existing users to participate. We employ moderation practices when responding to community topics, removing replies or comments that do not adhere to the community guidelines, suspending (or un-suspending) the participation privileges of a user, merging duplicate content, and generally anything else that helps users to feel comfortable with the online space that they’re participating in. Moderation typically goes hand in hand with curation practices.
Many support organizations have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that specifies the appropriate turn around time for emails and trouble tickets. To ensure a high quality and valuable experience to visitors of your community, consider establishing an internal SLA for responding to, and setting the status on topics.
Your community team may want to assign a different SLA time for each topic type. Base this SLA time around what your goals in the community are and the resources that your community team has available to them. Remember that these SLA times do not necessarily need to be communicated externally, but your internal departments should use them as a guideline to give your customers an efficient response. What can be helpful to publish in your community details is the business hours during which your community team operates.
In the average support community, it is common to have a shorter SLA time for Problems and Questions. These tend to be the topic types that are used when your customers are experiencing the most frustration. Having a quicker response time here can help to reassure your customers and make them feel heard by your company.
When it comes to setting an SLA time for Ideas, your time frame can be a bit more relaxed. Often topics posted as Ideas may mean that your community team will need some assistance from other departments before giving a detailed response. Communicating to your customers that your team has passed the idea on and it will be discussed internally is a great first step.
As a general rule, it is best to reply to all topics within 24 hours. This response may even be something as simple as, “Thank you for reporting this concern. I have set up time to discuss this with our Product team and will get back to you with their thoughts”.
Setting the status of a topic is vitally important to a community’s success. Topic statuses are the quickest way to communicate a topic direction to a customer, because there is a visual marker with the status indicated at the top of the topic page. Widgets can be filtered by topic status, and topic status is also reflected in reporting and analytics. Community Managers should define the specifics around what each topic status means in their community, and then post those definitions publicly so community members have a deeper understanding.
- Answered: A topic marked Answered means that there is a response sufficient enough to answer the question originally posed.
- Doesn’t need an answer: A topic marked with this status could be Anything unrelated to your company or service, or topics that are created to be responded to by other members. For example, a question posted by your team that is meant to get your community members sharing ideas in the replies.
- No Status: Keep all new ideas without a status. Status is determined in cooperation with the development or product team.
- Under consideration: When the development or product team determines that the idea is worth pursuing, but a product plan hasn’t been created.
- Planned: When a product plan has been created and the idea is slated for release during a certain time period. It is a great idea to use the Notes feature to internally track the progress towards this change by adding in links to release notes or a date on which the update may occur.
- Not Planned: When it’s either clear that an idea won’t be developed, or the development or product team rejects it.
- Implemented: Once an idea is implemented, setting this status communicates to your customers that the feedback has been put into place. Many communities track how many ideas get marked as implemented to show internal teams how many valuable ideas have come from their Get Satisfaction community.
- Not a problem: Problem is not caused by your product or is simply a misunderstanding of how your product works and is a great opportunity to educate your customers.
- Acknowledged: We can reproduce the problem and have filed a bug. Make sure a corresponding bug number has been filed within product development system, and that tracking number is added using the Notes feature.
- In Progress: Problem is currently being addressed.
- Solved: The fix has been implemented. Post an update to the thread letting your customers know of the fix, and then mark it as “Official” so it appears at the top.
Praise: There is no customer-facing status marker for Praise topics.
Company Update: There is no customer-facing status marker for Company Update topics.
Moderation Tool Best Practices
For specific details on what specific behaviors are triggered by each moderation tool, please review this Help Center article: Moderation Tool.
When do you Archive? Archive one-off customer specific issues when the topic has been resolved, or after 1 week of no activity. Archive inactive topics that would not provide future value to another user, as well as canonical topics that are out of date. Archive any topic that would be confusing to other community members. Archive any topic that you would not want to be search indexed, or appear in your community. Lastly, Archive a topic that has replies after merging it into an authoritative topic. Another option is to make these topics private.
Do not archive topics that will be helpful to other community members, or topics that have been posted by your FAQ account unless the topics are out of date. It is not recommended to archive idea or praise topics.
What should be included in the description? When clicking “Archive” you will be prompted to add an optional description. This information is displayed in the community change log, so it is recommended to list a reason for archiving the thread. E.g. “Topic is out of date”. It is also important to keep in mind that those who have the direct URL to the community topic can still use this URL to access the conversation after it has been archived.
Notification sent? Email notifications are not sent for archived topics. A note will appear at the top of the topic page stating that the topic has been archived.
When do you Close? Close all Archived topics to prevent existing users from continuing the conversation on the thread (unless you want them to). Close all company FAQ topics so that you can edit them in the future, if needed. Close any other topic that you would not like community members to reply or comment on.
What should be included in the description? There is no description field for the Close tool.
Notification sent? Email notifications are not sent for closed topics. A note will appear below the topic description stating that the topic is no longer open to replies or comments.
When do you Merge? Duplicate topics should be merged into an existing topic even if there are replies to the topic. Authors and followers of merged topics are notified when there updates are posted to the authoritative topic.
When do you opt to add the topic description as a new reply? When merging into another topic, you have the option to add the content of the original conversation as a new reply on the authoritative topic. We recommend opting to do this so the user’s comments are posted on the topic. It is also recommended to comment on the new reply (once merged) to ensure the flow of conversation within the authoritative topic.
What should be included in the description? There is no description field. When Merging, there is the option to customize the message to the topic author. It is recommended to add a custom message explaining why you’re merging. E.g: “We’re keeping all interest in this idea on one main thread,” etc.
Notification sent? Yes, an email notification of the topic being merged is sent to the author of the merged topic. Repliers to the merged topic will still be able to access the topic via the direct URL, but a note that the topic has been merged with a link to the authoritative topic will appear at the top of the page. Repliers to the merged topic will now be following the authoritative topic.
Tip: After merging a topic that has replies, close and archive the original (now merged) topic. Topics with no replies will automatically disappear after they’ve been merged.
Official Response Tool:
When do you mark an Official Response? Mark an employee, Champion, or community members employee’s response as “Official” when the reply is the most accurate response. Many community members like to see a reply marked as an official response even if it is the very first reply in the conversation. Multiple official responses can be promoted. Outdated official responses can be demoted.
What should be included in the description? There is no description field.
Notification sent? Email notifications are not sent when a reply is marked as “Official”. Official Responses are highlighted at the top of the reply/ comment thread, and are styled a bit differently than the rest of the replies.
When do you Remove? Topics, replies, and comments can be removed at any time. It is recommended to only use the remove tool if the user requests their content to be removed, if there is a clear Terms of Service violation, if the post is crass commercialism, if the post contains spam and/ or graphic content, if the post is not relevant to your community.
What should be included in the description? When removing a topic at a user’s request, simply say “post removed per user’s request.” When removing a post due to a Terms of Service violation, crass commercialism, or other abusive behavior, give the author a natural-language explanation of why their content was removed. Depending on the situation, you may recommend that they repost their issue without the abusive tone. If the users continue to violate the community’s guidelines with their posting behavior, you might consider suspending their participation privileges. When removing a misdirected topic, explain that they’ve posted in the wrong place and offer any additional information
Notification sent? An email notification is sent to the author of the removed content, and the information from the description section is included in the email notification. A note will appear in place of the removed content letting other users know that the post had been removed, along with a link to the change log.
Reply Fork Tool:
When do you Fork a Reply? When a user has replied to a topic, but their reply is not related to the discussion at hand, fork their reply to create a new topic. Any comments posted under the reply prior to the reply being forked will be brought over as replies on the new topic. Comments posted after the reply was forked will stay on the original topic thread.
What should be included in the explanation? Additional information related to why you chose to fork the reply into the new topic. The explanation field cannot be blank. The explanation is sent to the reply author in an email, and is also automatically posted as a comment underneath the reply to show other users that a new topic has been created.
Notification sent? An email notification is sent to the author of the forked reply, and to the authors of any users who have commented underneath the forked reply. Once the new topic has been created, a note will appear in the description section letting users know the topic was created from a forked reply.
Participation Suspension Tool Best Practices
Get Satisfaction allows community employees with a Management Seat the ability to suspend a user’s participation privileges in their community on all paid plans. Unless it’s a clear spamming situation, it’s best to reach out to someone (either publicly or privately) prior to revoking their participation privileges, otherwise you run the risk of getting a flood of emails from members. It’s often enough to remind users of the Community Guidelines to prompt a shift in behavior.
What are acceptable reasons for suspending a user’s posting privileges?
- Clear (and multiple) violations of our or your community guidelines
- A continued pattern of harassment of company employees
- Numerous dismissals of attempts at changing the discourse
- Complaints about the user from other customers
- Spamming or posting of inappropriate content
- Crass commercialism – pushing their company’s product/ services in another company’s community
How do I enable the Participation Suspension feature?
- Log in to the Admin section of your community
- Navigate to “Company Details,” then click on “Participation suspension settings”.
- Enter a valid email address and click “submit”. Keep in mind this is the email we’ll expose to suspended members if they have questions regarding why they were banned. For that reason, we typically suggest listing an anonymous email address, e.g.: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You’ll receive an email asking you to verify the address. Once this has been done, banning will be enabled in your community.
How do I suspend someone’s posting privileges?
Anyone with moderation tools enabled (both employees and champions with a Management Seat) can go to a member’s dashboard and suspend posting privileges. In the left column, they will see a section called Manage Suspensions with checkboxes similar to Manage Champions. Select the checkbox, and a pop-up window will ask you to specify the reason the member’s participation privileges are being suspended.
How are members notified of the suspension?
When the suspended member tries to take any participation action in the community (e.g. posting a new topic, posting a reply, posting a comment, voting on a topic, voting on replies, etc.), they are presented with an error message stating that their participation privileges have been suspended. The specific reason the moderator provided is displayed along with the verified email address so that they can follow up with you.
How do you lift the suspension?
Return to the member’s profile, and uncheck the box next to your community name. After you confirm they’ll be able to post again. All suspensions need to be lifted manually, as Get Satisfaction does not offer a time-based suspension.