Just because you are the community manager it doesn’t mean you should have all the power and responsibility. Instead of forcing yourself to justify giving responsibilities to your members, force yourself to justify not giving them.
Ultimately, your online community belongs to its members – or at least, your members need to have that perception. They won’t feel this way if they are unable to contribute or have any influence. You need to take some risks – the more influence your members feel they have, the more loyal they will be.
Instead of you having to intervene whenever your community guidelines are broken, why not have a team of members who do so for you? Depending on how well you trust them, you may or may not give them the power to delete or move content. This doesn’t really matter, though. The fact of the matter is, you are empowering your community to resolve its own problems.
Yes, there will be times when some disputes cannot be resolved and arbitrary action needs to be taken. However, if you give your community a chance you’ll be surprised at just how good your members can be at working out their differences.
The more you intervene, the less interested your members will be in self-resolution.
You don’t want all of your members to have moderator privileges – reserve these for the trusted few. This will ensure that moderator positions remain scarce, desirable and are seen as badges of honour. It will also ensure your moderators work hard to keep their positions.
Resist bringing in moderators from outside your community. They won’t understand its culture or personality. They won’t know your members. You’ll have a lot more teaching to do, and many more mistakes will be made.
Don’t just empower members within your community’s walls. Send them out into the big bad world! Do you have a twitter page? How about a Facebook page? If so, then put one (or more) of your members in charge of them. Give them responsibility to promote the community through these mediums. You’ll have less work to do, and the outcome will probably be more favourable, too. The members you choose to act as ambassadors will feel extra special, your target audience will be more receptive to discussions with a ‘real person’ rather than just ‘a brand’ and you’ll be demonstrating just how much you value, respect and trust your members.
- Community Counsellor – How about an agony aunt column run by a community member?
- Community Liaison Officer – Can members of your online community answer common questions instead of you?
- Community Experts – Acknowledge and take advantage of the experts in your community. PC help? Avatar designers?
Just as your community needs to have guidelines, those you empower need to have guidelines of their own, too. Work with them to figure out what their precise role should be. Work with them to draft some templates (where necessary), or ‘best practice’ guides. Even now, you’re empowering your members – and they haven’t even started yet!
How are you empowering members of your online community?