A community is a safe space. It's a place where you'd want people to be comfortable and feel a sense of belonging. But people are diverse and each individual brings forward unique ideas and perspectives. And sometimes, how people interact or present themselves can be a reason for conflict or even hurt others’ sentiments which is not what communities stand for.
Communities are meant to bind people together through mutual interests. Although individualism promotes healthy debates and the exchange of insights, it should never be a reason for people to lose interest or worse yet, get offended.
This is why the existence of community guidelines becomes a necessity when you’re building a community. Community Guidelines are defined rules and regulations that are meant to govern how members interact within a community. The purpose of guidelines is to draw boundaries and set limitations as to what will or will not be accepted in a community. Rules respect the integrity of a community which leads to maintaining proper decorum and upholding a code of conduct.
This way, community engagement remains respectful and friendly, while encouraging inclusion and equality so that people have a joyful experience that keeps them constantly involved.
Ensure appropriate member behavior. Explicitly define what type of behavior is acceptable and what’s not. This includes the type of language to be used, speech protocols, and what type of language to refrain from.
Strict policies against all kinds of discrimination. All community members have to be respectful of others’ race, caste, creed, gender, personal beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, and/or anything that differentiates them. Set rules against the use of abusive or derogatory language including the use of racial slurs, personal comments, cyber-bullying, or harassment.
Consensual sharing of information and no doxxing. Privacy is a basic human right that should be respected without being questioned. Make it crystal clear and also give people a way to lodge complaints if they’re being harassed personally through DMs, emails, etc.
Constantly moderate content and spam messages. It happens very often when people use community spaces as their personal channel for promotion. You can define guidelines around this or define ways to keep the conversation relevant like dedicating an entire space just for promotional content or restricting the number of posts a member can make in a channel in a given time. Any other type of content which is irrelevant, harmful, or spam should be actively removed.
Leave room for updates or improvements. At the end of the day, you’re doing this for your community so always be open to hearing people out if they have any suggestions for improving or updating the guidelines. While we’re at it, also let others review your guidelines to have a second opinion.
Make sure the tone is aligned with your community culture. How you present the guidelines is also important because it sets the tone for the community, especially for new members. But at the same time, be assertive and straightforward with the guidelines.
You’ll have to step up and be responsible for enforcing these guidelines strictly. You need to lead by example and not expect people to follow through just because you asked them to. Always actively monitor and moderate the community to ensure all the guidelines are being perfectly followed and adhered to.
There will definitely be moments when rules will be breached in any way, especially when your community gets more traction and starts attracting more members. It’s in moments like these when you must stand your ground and do what’s necessary. When people start observing how serious you are with the boundaries you’ve set, they’ll respect both you and the guidelines you’ve set to govern that space.
If we’re all being honest, communities can be extremely chaotic, which can take a toll on community management as a whole. Setting up regulations is not just important for the community but also for you because it helps you stay on top of everything without losing yourself in the noise. A moderated community leads to healthy conversations, better community engagement, management, and eventually sustainable growth.