You need to consider hosting online communities to engage with your customers, but if you aren't managing that community well, you might be wasting your time and potentially damaging your brand. That's where moderation comes into play, and Mzinga offers services to help you.

The Importance of Moderation

You don't want to moderate your online community to death, it's overkill, you take away a level of freedom that people expect and you spend too much time doing little things that aren't worth your effort. But you do need to moderate.

Mike Merriman, Director of Strategic Services at Mzinga took some time to discuss community moderation with us and what his company Mzinga does to help.

Moderation, done right, allows you to deal with potentially bad comments before things get really bad. Terms of service are key to have so that expectations are set and people in the community understand what they can and can't do. Also note that your terms of service (or codes of conduct) are different depending on who you are and what your community is for.

Of course terms of service are a bit tougher to deal with out in social networks like Twitter and Facebook, because unless you have a Facebook Page, you don't have control.

Two Approaches to Moderation

There are two ways to do moderation, manual and automated. Automated moderation is typically built into your community platform, as it is in Mzinga. Use it to scan for particular "watch words" (like swearing) and have the system either deal with the issue ("don't post", "black out") or flag it for follow up ("send for review"). This is fairly easy to do within your own hosted community, not so much with an open channel like Facebook or Twitter).

It's also important to recognize that you don't always want negative things about you taken down, so manual moderation makes more sense because you have more subjective control. Even though you need to address negative comments, you don't necessarily want all positive things about you. Merriman explains -- if all you have on your Facebook page or community site is high ratings and reviews, it looks like you are just paying lip service to the rating/review features (and no one will believe you are perfect).

Manual moderation means you are paying attention and being responsive. To do manual moderation, you have to understand the company really well or who in the company can respond when something comes up that needs special attention. You also have to respond with the voice and approach the brand wants.

Can Someone Outside the Company Moderate?

Merriman would tell you yes because Mzinga not only offers moderation capabilities within its platform, but also as a service to organizations. These moderation services can be for the Mzinga platform or for another platform. The key is that Mzinga takes guidance from the company, and its team of professionals understands when it needs to involve subject matter experts from the company.

I do think that moderation is an important aspect of community management and that some aspects of moderation can be automated -- that makes perfect sense. But do I agree with an outside company performing manual moderation services for an organization?

I think it's possible and in many cases necessary if an organization has a sites with high traffic and little to no internal community management. But I also think it's a role that is important to organizations if they want to be closer to their customers and potential customers -- and I don't see that happening really well with external moderation.

It's an interesting approach to moderation and I'd be curious to know what social media professional think. So please provide your perspective in the comments.