Many people own, manage, and moderate a number of groups on LinkedIn. The membership of many of the groups runs into the thousands. In addition to owning, managing, and moderating LinkedIn groups, many people contribute to other groups and hold the distinguished position of influencer.
I started moderating when I started to find out what social media was all about. I soon discovered that sites like LinkedIn offered good opportunities but were generally poorly managed and moderated. I wanted to make the groups I participated in better for members and for me as well.
Mostly, I disliked all the “Non Discussions” that appeared in the discussion groups. At best, most were self-promotional. At worst, some of those folks were just blocking up the groups’ arteries and needed to go elsewhere.
Moderation? What is Moderation?
Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. In a group or forum, a moderator may remove unsuitable contributions in accordance with the Rules and/or their moderation system.
A moderator oversees the communication activity He or she monitors the interchange of contributors.
Laissez faire or managed? Some people think that LinkedIn groups are public forums and that they should have the right to what they consider to be “free speech.”
LinkedIn is not a public forum. Groups are about membership and accepting the groups’ rules.
How to be a good moderator
Get to know the community of a group, especially the most active members. Talk to them, let them propose ideas, try to tell them the projects that you have in mind for this forum and convey to them the rules that you are imposing for each section that you moderate.
A group is good mostly because it has good members. Try to cultivate those who do the best posts/contributions. Refer to them. “Like” their posts.
Good moderators are primarily working to try to make their groups better for the members, not for themselves.
Moderator duties are as diverse as the group topics themselves. Some moderators are virtually invisible; they surface only when situations arise that do not seem likely to resolve themselves. Other forum moderators are always there; ready to intercede at the first hint of discourse. I am mostly of the latter way of moderation. I step back when I can, though.
Moderators often have to enforce not only the many rules but also the conduct and decorum of Discussions. Some contributors will tend to communicate without enough thought for others, which can upset other commenters.
Don’t leave input for too long in the pre-moderation queue. It is disrespectful to contributors.
You may not regularly have time to send personal messages (I often used to moderate about 600 posts on some days). But try when you can. Some messages can be of the cut-and-paste variety (eg. – John. Re job ads. We only post those that feature a location in the first two lines).
Ensure that most topics are about what the group is about. But sometimes, it is good to introduce something just for extra interest. The group manager should be the one who determines the direction and tone.
You will sometimes see posts about things you see as a good cause. Ninety-nine percent of the time you need to steal your heart and should not post them.
References or definitions needed?
Some discussion topics need more than just personal opinion. They will benefit from a requirement that comments need to be backed up with something objective. Not all, however. It will depend on your group’s focus and the discussion.
I have a rule of thumb when a member says “We must define “XYZ” or “Please state your reference or authority on that.” I ask, “Will this hinder or help the discussion?” My objective is to encourage engagement–reasonable thoughts and ideas.
Civility, politeness, courtliness, and communication respect
Unusual as it is on LinkedIn overall, the best groups show civility, politeness, courtliness, and communication respect for other members and their input. This does not mean that input cannot take the form of robust comments and arguments.
If the tone of a forum becomes hostile or starts to move in the direction of personal attacks, the forum moderator has the discretion to stop the discussion to prevent heated interchanges.
Conversely, topics that deserve further examination can be allowed to continue indefinitely.
In addition to acting as the guardian of forum content, forum moderators are also responsible for maintaining the integrity of the forum in other ways.
Language, spelling, and grammar
It’s up to your group’s tone, but I tend to give great leeway here. It is a quick medium. People make mistakes. English is not everyone’s first language either.
Input in “foreign languages”
The language of the group should be stated in the group’s rules. If you cannot read it, you cannot moderate it. Even if you do speak Lettish, do your members?
Like a referee in a sports game, attacking him/her or abusing his or her decisions cannot be accepted.
Input and ideas, personal perceptions, and preferences about how you should manage and moderate are all useful, as time permits, but as required, good moderators are prepared to step up and dictate. Be a benevolent dictator, though.
Discussion participants should be encouraged to have their say but have no final say in how a manager moderates a group. This is, of course, undemocratic, but the alternative would be chaos.
A good moderator needs to be allowed more leeway in their comments on the group. Direct comments may not always be entirely civil or polite. Effectiveness is what really counts.
If a contributor behaves in a way that is contrary to the rules or in a way that lacks sufficient civility, politeness, or respect of other contributors (and it’s ultimately your call), their input may be deleted. They may also be placed in auto moderation – Usually with a warning note but not necessarily if it is felt that immediate action may be required.
If an abusive contributor refuses to cease unacceptable behavior, the forum moderator usually has the discretion to ban (block) the user.
Some posters will try to hide behind ambiguous comments.
Just like those sneaky kids at school I seem to remember. If I think they are trying to hide their inappropriate comments this way, I am included to err on the side of caution and delete their comment. I also feel that if they will not own up to their sneakiness they need to spend some time in the sin bin – auto moderation.
Your own input
Moderators and managers have the advantage of posting without being pre-moderated. They should also have some additional leeway in what they post. It is a small enough form of payment.
Editing and rewriting
LinkedIn does not allow us to edit or alter posts from group members and I am happy about that. In some groups, the moderator or manager can rewrite posts for clarity or content to make them more in keeping with an actual discussion.
The rules in my group do make it possible for moderators to rewrite a non-discussion post to make it into an actual engaging discussion. It requires more time. I can either then give attribution for the idea – eg. “Suggested by John Snow Marketing Manager. The Wall. Or I allow the original post to just go into promotions as well.
Contrary to the assertions of some, it is rarely an opinion or differing opinion that is deleted or not posted. It is more likely the manner that is used.
A bad comment may be because the poster is having a random bad day or forgot his or her medication–but we need to focus on what is currently happening. Usually, the first step is to put the transgressor into auto-moderation and send a message.
Too offensive, provocative for the group?
A little bit of offense should be OK if it is not meant to be personal and is focused on the idea.
Is it OK for a member to retaliate inappropriately (to abuse someone) when they have been insulted first?
No. But it is understandable. The best advise is to let the moderator know by direct message or by flagging the offensive stuff.
Abuse of a moderator.
This is not to be tolerated. Like any referee or umpire, a moderator gets more protection. You don’t need to put up with abuse or someone continuing to question your call.
If a member seeks to abuse you (or others) privately – sends you a direct message or email, you should have the right within the rules to publish what they send.
I see group management as having another dimension to moderation.
A group manager makes decisions regarding content and the direction of threads, keeping topics organized.
Other duties of a group manager may include relocating discussions to sections or even other groups within his or her control. I find this a useful activity as I try to develop similar groups into having different focuses.
LinkedIn is a wonderful, effective, intuitive social media channel that is one of the best for professionals. Within LinkedIn, the Groups feature be managed and leveraged properly. Included that is the proper ownership, moderation, and management. If you do it right, you will reap the benefits.[signoff][/signoff]
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Dr. Brian Monger FMA, CPPM, PhD B.Com; Grad Dip Man. MBus. M.Ed. DBA Ph.D. is the Executive Director of MAANZ International, a Director and principal consultant at the Centre for Market Development.
He has over 40 years’ experience in management and consulting in marketing and business development, working with organisations in Australia and overseas.
He is a management and marketing consultant and well known presenter on marketing and management topics – as well as a prolific writer.