This past week, in #CMGR class, I was designated to be the moderator (or facilitator) for the week. What does this exactly entail? Well, I had to basically initiate and stimulate, and sustain the conversations of the class community. That’s quite a bit to handle (*Cue the mini freakout*)!
Going into the week, I didn’t really know what to expect, or what I was really doing, in fact. Yet, there were a couple of valuable things I learned along the way: being a moderator is more difficult than it seems and moderating a community becomes easier as time goes along.
According to Buzzing Communities, a book written by Richard Millington, the correct definition of being a moderator is to be a facilitator of sort. In my case this past week, I would categorize myself as acting like a managerial facilitator, one who sets the agenda for the community and directs the flow of discussion between its participants (2012). While playing the managerial facilitator role, I stumbled upon a couple of challenges:
- Providing Appropriate Content
One of the main responsibilities of a community moderator is to provide meaningful content that will spark discussion among its members. At the beginning of my journey as moderator, I wasn’t quite sure what type of information to start with; I knew the topic of the week was about Twitter and epic Twitterverse attacks/fails, yet with a subject that broad, where do you begin?! Another thing I was concerned about was discussing a topic, such as community management, one that I, myself, wasn’t familiar with before and one that my fellow classmates might not normally talk about on a regular basis.
I found that starting broad and getting more specific really helped, warming up the floor to the relating topics of the week. Then, the more specific questions were posed, which got more people conversing in the discussion. At first, my posts weren’t getting a lot of feedback, which being honest, can be discouraging. But, I learned to not give up, because as my moderation period progressed, I found content that I thought my classmates could relate to, connect to our class topics, and ultimately talk and debate about with each other.
2. Encouraging Participation
Another duty of a community moderator is to encourage participation among its members in the discussions, doing so by guiding members’ contributions, and ensuring plenty of activity on multiple posts (Millington, 2012). At the start of moderation, along with my uncertainty on chosen content, I also was feeling down because people weren’t responding to my posts. I didn’t know what to do; I didn’t want to be a nag and bug people to respond to my posts, because that’s no fun and really isn’t promoting a welcoming environment to contribute to. But at the same time, I wanted others to think about the content I had prepared for that day.
Thankfully, and eventually, my fellow classmates caught on to my posts and some great conversations started blossoming. How did I accomplish this? I really just tried to post SOMETHING everyday; if a post wasn’t getting a lot of feedback I would switch to an opposing topic, and would get some responses. I also tried to ask open ended questions in order to get a variety of answers from the participants. I learned, that in order to be an efficient moderator, you’re not just in charge of creating these conversations, but you’re also participating in them as well. If you’re not going to talk, who else will?
While it may have taken a bit to catch on, I did have some great participants. From being a moderator, listening and responding to other people’s thoughts really helped me to catch on to the topics at hand.
What did I learn?
Looking back on my moderator experience, I realize I went into this blindly; I had no previous experience with community management, and didn’t really have a clear idea of what it was or what it entailed. Now that I can say I’ve been a community moderator, I feel that I’ve learned so much about how to engage and learn with others, all in an online setting. If I had to sum up my lessons learned, I would say…
- Community Management is a lot harder than it sounds- it takes creativity and dedication to ignite meaningful discussions
- Trying to think of engaging and appropriate content is key for the activeness of a community
- Encouraging member participation is undesirable, but sometimes necessary for responses
- Switch up the “flavor” of your content
- Pose open-ended questions to the members of the community
- Be consistent and don’t give up
So, if you were like me, skeptical about trying community management and moderating out, I would say go for it! Like anything, the more you try it, the better you get at it. After this experience, I would definitely give community moderating another shot