Credit: 10ch (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Credit: 10ch (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We don’t spend too much time thinking about the private messaging feature of the community software that we use. But as a tool for the community manager and staff, I would never want to be without it.

Most of a community manager’s best work happens in private, and much of that is private messages. That is where we manage the situation. Where we deal with troublemakers and push well-meaning members back on the right path. If you correct someone in public, in front of everyone, that’s a confrontation. They have to save face. They have to defend themselves. If you do it in private, it’s just a conversation between you and them.

That’s why I don’t really believe in moderating in public. It’s counter-productive to my end goal. I’m not trying to offend anyone or dent their ego. I just want the member to be a better contributor.

Another thing I love about my private messaging feature is that it tells me whether or not the message has been read. That’s important because it allows me to determine that the member saw what I said and act with that in mind. If they ignored me or decided not to read the message, that is their choice. But knowing that they opened it is important. I like email, but it just doesn’t work as well. That’s why I prefer a private messaging system for as many site related communications as possible.

If you don’t want to allow your members to private message each other, you can still use a private message feature for secure moderation and site related messages. This will help ensure they are read (you don’t have to deal with someone’s email spam filters if you don’t send them email) and will give you a place to securely contact your members. There is a reason why banks and financial institutions require you to login to their website to view messages, rather than sending you the content of the messages via email.

Private messages may not get a lot of press, but they are where a lot of the important work gets done.