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In my last article, I discussed the danger of letting community guideline violations slide and how, if you let a violation go without the proper attention, you may be risking one of the most important elements of community management: consistency.

On Google+, Justin Kozuch, Lead Researcher at Pixel to Product, Community Manager at OSL Marketing and Host of 49Pixels Live, shared the article and started a discussion, asking community managers, “what tactics have you employed to create a consistent experience for your community members?”

I took the question down the moderation route, because that was the subject of my article and, also, moderation is, perhaps, the most important thing that we can do to ensure a consistent experience.

When it comes to moderation, there are a number of things that I do to help this process. Here are some of the big ones.

Publicly Available Guidelines

As Justin said in his initial post on Google+, a publicly posted set of guidelines, or rules, is very important because then, when something needs to be addressed, you have something to refer to – a public document that all can see.

If you don’t have a publicly accessible document that all members can read, that you can refer to, when you remove something, it can feel very inconsistent because people have no idea what rules you are playing by. It feels like the rules are in your head only and you are the only one with access to your head (hopefully).

Taking the Time to Think Things Through

The bulk of what we all face is simple stuff that doesn’t require tons of thought.

But, there are unique circumstances, more detailed situations, longer messages, etc., that require additional thought. So, I’m careful to take the time to ensure it is handled correctly, whether that be leaving it up or removing it.

Documenting Violations

I employ a system of documentation where whenever anything noteworthy or negative happens regarding a member, it is documented on a private forum thread dedicated to that member. Relevant details are also included. I even include private messages and emails exchanged (both ends of the conversation).

This gives me something to refer back to, but also – it is an important training tool to other members of the team, which in my case is volunteer moderators. They can see how things have been handled and draw on that, which is the whole idea of consistency.

Also, the documentation itself allows me to make more consistent bans because I am able to consider a person’s entire history – and not just what I think happened or what I remember. It’s golden.

Moderator Guidelines

With that staff, I have moderator guidelines and manuals that detail the responsibilities, but also go over common scenarios that they will face and how they should be handled.

I also define things like “what is an inflammatory comment?” and “What is profanity, as far as the guidelines are concerned?” And, of course, they are encouraged to ask me if they are ever unsure about anything.

Contact Templates for Contacting Members

When a member needs to be contacted regarding a violation, we rely on a series of contact templates, which are pre-written messages with blanks to be filled in, that can be used for nearly all types of violations that come up.

We have specific templates for things like profanity and cross posting, but we also have a general template that allows for some customization. But, even with the customization, the templates still ensure a consistent tone and a consistent level of quality communication across the entire staff, no matter who is sending the message.

Moderation Quality Assurance

As manager of the communities I run, I also view myself as sort of “Moderation Quality Assurance.” I review all moderation decisions made. Most of which are great. But, some of which are not handled correctly. In those cases, I quickly correct the situation and apologize to the affected members.

I don’t believe in sticking with a bad decision in order to avoid the appearance of weakness. I believe in making sure that, in the end, the appropriate decisions was made, always. That way, nothing can ever come back and bite me in the backside.

Fixing Mistakes as Soon as Possible

To that end, I recognize that mistakes will be made and, again, I correct them when they are. In my piece on letting things slide, I said that if you leave something in public that you shouldn’t, you create a negative expectation. The same can be said for the opposite.

If you remove something that shouldn’t have been removed, you should correct it, so as to not create an improper expectation in the other direction. When a mistake is made, I apologize for it – publicly, if appropriate.

I am sure that there are more things that we do, but these are some of the big items. It has worked well.