Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Social Media Moderation Guidelines

I was speaking with the Head of Marketing of a large retailer the other day and she asked me if their were any guidelines for moderating participation in social media. To define this further, she wanted to know what moderators could & couldn't do or say on their updated User Generated Content site.

My first thought was to say "don't moderate, allow the crowd to do this for you"... but I didn't for two main reasons:

1. This is a site dedicated to a specific company's product(s) and not a general free-for-all chat area. Off-post topics are quite clearly breaches of the site's usage policy and really have no place there.

2. Its not the place where it will have immediate community membership/evangelism, therefore the self-cleansing aspect is not a likely following the initial launch.

But it did get me thinking about what you should and shouldn't moderate. This situation has been clouded further by the recent decision in the High Court that "Internet Bulleting Boards are more likely slander than libel" and a certain amount of give-and-take should be considered, however this is not a license to defame online, since the Judge in this case stated:

"I would not suggest for a moment that blogging cannot ever form the basis of a legitimate libel claim," he said. "I am focusing only on these particular circumstances."

There are however some usful point to consider before you head into this difficult situation:

  • Know your target audience
    Would they consider moderation as censorship? Are they likely to self-moderate?

  • Understand the impact of moderating
    Identify if this will cause an unneccesary delay in postings and the time/effort/cost

  • Make sure your site usage policy is clear and available

The best starting advice I give these days (as I am definately not a legal person) is this social media legal checklist reference from Richard Best (note: He is in New Zealand, you should therefore consult with you in-house legal team first to check they are happy)

I guess all things in life should be done in moderation.... including moderation!
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