#CmgrChat – 2/8 – Community Guidelines

Being a part of a community doesn’t come without some guidelines, rules, & regulations to follow.  Have you ever been a part of an organization that didn’t have something to adhere to?  Without any of that, you run the risk of entering into chaos.  The best community managers create guidelines that encourage, support, and best of all keep their community members safe and protected from anything that could go wrong.  However, how you go about creating guidelines that match the community’s needs?  What are some great examples?  How do you uphold them?  Well — that’s what this week’s chat discussed!

Q1: Why would you create community guidelines for your community members to follow?

SunnyinSyracuse Because any space where you want people to feel safe to share & discuss needs some ground rules.

evanhamilton Without guidelines, people don’t know how they’re expected to act. That plus anonymity can equal conflict.

sarahpriceless Every community has norms of behavior and conduct to help define what the community is and how one should act

SusanBCole Guidelines are TOP priority for me- 9,000 employees + community members + strict privacy laws in healthcare. Def need clear rules.

TheJournalizer Guidelines are there for several reasons – Members = Protection | Employees = Expectations | Legal = Copyrights

shankell  For me, it’s so that if things go haywire, I have posted guidelines to refer users to
jennita Without community guidelines you’d have a free for all. It could get quite ugly

Historian Law is order in community, and without order community is social chaos.

valeriemorini Increase focused engagmt & maximize participation

debng Not everyone is social media savvy. Some think it’s ok to type in all caps, for example. So guidelines help with that

JPedde You wouldn’t start a company without a mission statement / goal / business plan. Don’t start a community without guidelines

Q2: Who should be involved in creating guidelines? Do you share internally when completed?

evanhamilton Everyone who will be affected by them should be involved in creating guidelines. Otherwise it feels oppressive

QuirkyBean We put them to the community – asked for feedback to collaborate. <3 After all, they want the best for the community too

TheJournalizer Initially the cmgr or architect, followed by the superior (marketing?), & reviewed by legal or a lawyer (on policy/privacy)

Historian The person who started the comm. sets the rules, the it’s about adapting to the needs as the community grows

SusanBCole Ha! I chair a committee of 25 inc. lawyers, docs, professors, HIPAA experts, etc. that reviews policy- not a 1 woman job.

 Q3: How do you get started writing community guidelines? How often do you refresh? Who do you share with

LikeableMedia  The whole team should be shared, and the docs should be continually updated

LikeableMedia If it is a collaborative effort and updated frequently, it should be very successful.

sarahpriceless Focus on the timeless principles that matter; one of ours is “be nice to each other.”

SueOnTheWeb One important point, Guidelines need to be easy to read. No long words

TheJournalizer Simple you start with best practices – Gift for everyone, list of guidelines from the US GOV

debng  Start with a comment policy & while you shouldn’t copy another community’s guidelines, it’s ok to use them for reference.

BeckyBol Start w/common sense. Keep it simple. Adapt it as necessary. Look at other communities for inspiration – but DON’T copy/paste

marieconnelly worth noting that Guidelines & Terms of Use don’t have to be the same document. I think it’s okay for TOU to be more legalese

Q4: How do you enforce the rules? What are the consequences of breaking them?

evanhamilton Unless you’ve stated a no-tolerance policy, always give a warning & cite the guideline. Be kind, people slip up

rhogroupee We use progressive discipline, ranging from private convo, temp timeout, to total ban, depending on the offense

debng If something is absuive, vulgar or spammy, and against guidelines the CM should have no qualms about removing it

QuirkyBean How many members actually read the guidelines before participating? 😉 Education before Moderation

LikeableMedia Rules are in place for a specific reason. Before creating the guidelines everyone should agree to their importance & follow

sarahpriceless Focus on conflict resolution before resorting to banning – educate about guidelines, lock threads & other tactics first.

Historian 1 Ask them to stop, 2 Warn them, 3 Warn them again, 4 Temp ban, 5 Longer temp ban, 6 Perm ban

evanhamilton A lot of the time, guideline-breakers are just excited. See if you can’t point their energy towards productivity.

Q5: Name examples (Please share links) of Companies/Brands with easy to follow/awesome guidelines

marieconnelly Been waiting for Q5! All time fave example, @Flickr:

Historian Here is my generic set of rules, feel free to edit and modify to suite your needs. Attribution would be nice

marieconnelly Also really love @Pinterest: & @Bagchk:

CATrio  I really like the “Best & Worst Practices” part of @sephora‘s community guidelines:

rhogroupee Good ones from @instagram:

SusanBCole This policy for physicians and staff is a good use of the right tone.


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About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.