According to MGI’s 2015 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, more and more associations are tying member retention to private online communities, citing that “for associations reporting more participation in their private social network, 53% report an increase in membership over the past year, compared to 22% whose membership declined.” Not bad, right? Not to be all “I told you so” or anything, but….I told you so. It’s great to see more and more associations seeing the value of private online communities and more associations launching them.
If your organization has launched a private community or plans to and is either using volunteers or planning to use volunteers to moderate and/or manage the community, you should definitely be paying attention to what’s going on over at Reddit with regard to volunteer community moderators. Basically, Reddit uses a ton of volunteer moderators (“mods”) to help run the site, which is one of the most highly trafficked on the Internet. Smart, right? Well, apparently not, since the mods are currently revolting after one of Reddit’s employees, Victoria Taylor, was terminated. Victoria had served as the main point of contact between the volunteer mods and Reddit, and upon hearing of her termination, the mods decided to show Reddit who was actually boss of the wildly popular site by locking down hundreds of subreddits (topic-based communities).
This scenario is a good reminder that, while volunteers can be great resources in terms of helping manage your organization’s private community (or any of your org’s social media presences), ultimately you should make sure that they’re not holding the keys to the castle and, with them, the power to take over the platform(s). Ways to prevent this include having a platform that has different levels of access and making sure that volunteers don’t have admin rights that could enable them to take over the site, setting clear lines of communication between volunteers and more than one staff person in the event that the one person either leaves or is terminated, and having regular check-ins and trainings with volunteers to make sure that both staff and volunteers are on the same page.
Community management and moderation are tireless, often thankless jobs that require dedication and often 24/7/365 work hours; be sure that you’re recognizing those efforts regularly and ensuring that an “us versus them” mentality is never lurking below your community’s waters. Also, the flip side of community engagement is passion for the community; your most engaged and faithful users and moderators likely have strong feelings about the community and the staff working on it; if things happen to go sour with that staff person, you can be sure there will be strong feelings about the matter among members of your community. To this day, I’m humbled and proud to have been ASHA’s community manager and to have held in such high regard by members--this post a member wrote about me leaving still makes me misty-eyed.
So, by all means, channel the passion your community’s engaged users feel for your organization and your community by establishing a volunteer moderator/manager program. But just be darn sure that the org--not the volunteers--are the ones who have ultimate control over the platform or you could wake up one day to your own Reddit revolt.