How to Outsource Community Moderation
What is a Community?
According to the Cambridge dictionary, a community is “all the people who live in a particular area, or a group of people who are considered as a unit because of their shared interests or background.”
As we can perhaps make out, the idea of a community being constituted of people ‘who live in a particular area’ may be a bit dated, since we now live in the digital world, powered by the Internet, enabling us to make the transition to an online community which could be described as ‘a group of people connected on the Internet because of their shared interests or background.’ In fact, even people living in the same neighborhood could be part of their neighborhood online community. As each person has many facets, she could be a part of many online communities as well.
In the context of BPO work, a community would, by default, mean an online community.
An online community is sometimes also referred to as an online forum.
The focus of this post is a type of a community that we can call the branded community which is a community created by a ‘brand’ primarily for furthering its own interests though some of them might convey that they created the community for the benefit of others, like customers, or suppliers.
Also, the term ‘brand’ should not be taken to represent for-profit entities only. Not-for-profit entities also create and maintain vibrant communities for furthering their own interest that may be related to making more people know about them, or fundraising, or advocacy. Similarly, for -profit entities could have a different set of objectives:
Customer Support – Creates a support system where the issues faced by one customer can be resolved by another who may have faced a similar issue earlier or otherwise has the answer. Makes support cheaper for the business as they don’t need to deploy staff to address these issues.
Feedback – As members mostly interact with each other, it is viewed as an open and fair exchange where people are able to share their experiences openly. This provides the most honest feedback to a business. The business can also seed discussions on subjects where they need feedback.
Product feedback and features – As a logical extension of the feedback, it can be used for a lot of actions like modifying product features, changing strategy, or anything else. It can be a great testing ground for planned introductions as well.
Promotion through fans – A satisfied customer is the best advertisement for a business, said a management guru. A happy customer even more so. The community brings them together and even identifies them. Their disposition towards the business and its products can be channelized into promoting the business; like having a volunteer sales force.
Need for Community Moderation Solutions?
Like any ‘open’ space on the Internet, an online community can be barged into by unwelcome elements and violated. This will not only detract from the sponsor’s objectives in creating the space, it could also vitiate the environment of the space with the result that members might feel unsafe and start shying away from participating.
It is a responsibility to create and maintain an online public space as much as it is to maintain a physical public space.
Apart from the lack of safety aspect, the creator also needs to play multiple roles; solving customer issues that stay unresolved, seed ideas for wholesome conversation, provide inputs to management on trends, run campaigns and activities like contests and share relevant information and updates. In short, be the life and soul of the party. You don’t want to be the host of a lifeless party.
Hence the need.
Community Moderation Solutions – Guidelines
Online moderation guidelines, in general, are driven by commonly accepted principles of civil society, a loose, ambiguous moral code of conduct that also guides our behavior in the real world.
Since moderation will involve judging the actions of others, as a starting point, it is recommended that guidelines be clearly laid out by the host, so that, when a moderator needs to take a call which may be against the wishes of another person, this code can be referenced.
The guidelines should define who the community is for and who not for and guidelines regarding self-promotion, thread-jacking, going off-topic, etc.
Penalties should be defined as well and effort should be made to both interpret infractions and levy penalties judiciously and consistently.
In the end, it is a part of your business or brand, and you need to ensure you run it in a manner that enables you to best meet the objectives it was created for. It is a group of people. Human qualities like empathy, listening, politeness, trust, will always have value.
What to Look for in a Provider
While theoretically a business has a choice whether to outsource community moderation or do it inhouse, increasingly, there is a preference for outsourcing. Hence, without going into the merits and demerits of the options, we will focus on the parameters that should be used to identify the most suitable provider for your requirements.
Community moderation services often need to be carried out across multiple platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Digg, Reddit, Yelp, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, and several more. Each of them might have their own rules and guidelines and code of conduct that need to be respected by brands that have built a community on that platform.
On top of platform rules are the different laws and regulations around the world where the platforms operate and where members are from. While they cannot be legal experts, familiarity with laws that impact on their work, like those related to public obscenity, copyrights, safety of children, privacy, etc. would be beneficial.
Our senior management, with over 20 years of hands-on experience, set the pace for oWorkers. Under their guidance, the teams engaged in moderation have gradually picked up expertise and skills on a variety of platforms and fora and learned to navigate their way around client guidelines and codes of conduct for moderation.
When you outsource community moderation, except for community specific guidelines created by the host, the general policies governing moderation, in the sense of common global and civic acceptability, remains uniform. Having provided similar services to another client earlier would be an advantage as most of the skills and knowledge are portable, except what you draw up as the code of conduct for your hosted communities. In many cases, even the community guidelines end up being of a similar nature.
With client relationships that are growing over the eight years we have been in service to them, oWorkers has wide experience in providing community moderation services to our clients. We are also GDPR compliant which, operating from the Eurozone, is a requirement.
Balancing multiple roles
Unlike social media moderation, which is more of a one-way street with the objective of identifying and blocking content that could be disturbing or harmful for other users, community moderation solutions need to straddle multiple roles.
The moderator needs to:
- be a watchdog who monitors and filters out content of objectionable nature.
- be the customer service front for the brand, identifying content that could represent a customer issue and ensure it gets resolved.
- collect data and information on the trends that emerge on the community
- create engagement and activity through fun and games, contests and promotional activity
- look for new customers
- strengthen the voice of advocates while weakening that of detractors
In short, promote the interest of the brand through the community.
Growth of our client relationships, including several unicorn marketplaces, testify to the facility with which we have discharged these multiple roles and have become an integral part of the marketing teams of our clients.
Pricing that creates value
Being a commercial engagement, the community moderation solutions arrangement has to eventually boil down to a pricing number, with lower being better. Though on the face of it seemingly a difficult task, as the client wants lowest while the provider wants highest, sensible businesses do reach sensible conclusions on pricing. However, from an outsourcer’s perspective, ensure that what you seek from the pricing is great value, and not necessarily the lowest number.
Clients of oWorkers report savings of up to 80% of their costs prior to outsourcing. Our efficient and committed operations allow us to operate economically, enabling the benefits to be shared with our clients, as demonstrated by the competitive pricing we offer.
Speed of response
Online activity could happen at any point of time during the 24-hour cycle as someone, somewhere in the world, is always up and active. With online, speed expectations have also gone up. While many of the activities in a community can wait, if inappropriate content is posted or the conversation veers off track and the fair name of the host comes under threat of being maligned, it would need quick action. Hence, like other online moderation activities, when you outsource community moderation, the speed of response would be an important parameter.
oWorkers is always ready. Our moderators are active 24×7 so that you can sleep soundly. Depending on client requirements, our moderators are in a position to offer ‘live’ interjections and responses on online communities.
Though you might operate the community in a particular language, and you might even put that as part of the guidelines for participation, you cannot prevent people from posting in other languages. Whatever automated filters we may put, languages that use the same script or alphabet will go through the barrier. Again, you would have a choice; permit such participation or delete it/ filter it out. At the very least, you may need to have an understanding that a particular comment/ post is in a different language, and needs to be handled differently. It could even be an offensive post in a different language. Hence, multilingual capability comes in handy when you outsource community moderation.
With a coverage of 22 major languages across our three centers, oWorkers can cover most language requirements of clients.
Reliance on technology is a given in today’s world, with efficiency and consistency being the outcome of technology deployment. However, technology becomes obsolete very fast and needs to be updated/ refreshed regularly to ensure that it delivers the benefits you expect from it. Reliance on dated technology could be counter productive as the context changes with the passage of time. For example, usage of the term ‘disabled’ is not considered appropriate now; the current usage in most situations is ‘differently abled.’ An automated filter that is dated might permit ‘disabled’ to be used in the community whereas a modern version might filter it out.
It helps that more than 85% of our clients our technology companies as it keeps us on our toes. We have forged partnerships with major technology providers and are able to deploy their technologies for you when you outsource community moderation to oWorkers.
Our facilities are secure and we are ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified.
Hiring and Scaling capacity
When you outsource community moderation to a BPO partner, you are outsourcing an activity which, at least to some extent, will need to be done manually by trained resources. The BPO will need to hire and train resources so that they can provide requisite services to your business. Hence, the BPO should have:
- A continuous supply of interested candidates or access to pools of talent that can be hired and trained
- Ability to hire in large numbers for a short period of time to match seasonal or other spike in volumes
Being deeply rooted in the communities we work in, oWorkers is a preferred employer and gets applications for jobs all the year round. This reduces our cost of reaching out to interest candidates in our jobs, which we are able to share with our clients, as reflected in our pricing.
In addition, with the trust we have built, we can also hire to meet short-term peaks, to the tune of 100 resources within 48 hours. We are able to do this because historically we have managed to absorb many such hires in other jobs that open up in the company, or to fuel our growth.
Community moderation services, to some extent, are context driven, which can keep changing. Hence a committed training team that can keep refreshing the knowledge and skills of moderators becomes important. In addition, moderation of online communities is often done ‘live.’ In other words, there is no check on what a moderator is doing in the community. While there may be subsequent checks and balances of the moderator’s participation, the best solution is to have a well qualified and trained moderator doing it for you.
In all their work locations, oWorkers runs a training facility independent of the delivery team. They periodically test the knowledge and skill levels of even tenured resources and provide inputs, where required.
Project Management and Transition
Probably more than other services, community moderation services require project management and transition expertise. It is not a one-time lift and shift operation that will take the inhouse work to a vendor. It is more like the setting up of a model through which the provider will become an extended arm of the client since, as we already have seen, there are many critical tasks that will be performed by this team which will go a long way towards establishing and promoting the brand, image and goodwill of the organisation, provide inputs to it based on interactions moderated, and attempt to extend the reach of the client. In brief, it will do what the marketing team and senior management would generally be tasked with.
With over a hundred transitions under its belt, and each new transition adding to the knowledge base and experience, oWorkers is ready to offer suggestions on the engagement model based on our experience.
While we will do the heavy lifting, we would suggest that when you outsource community moderation, not being solely a rule-based delivery setup, and with the opportunity of making an active contribution to the marketing and brand-building efforts of the client, your management team, especially on the marketing and communication side, be closely involved in its functioning for best results.
With your business, the more we serve you, the more opportunities we get to serve the local communities by creation of job opportunities and enabling more youngsters to cross the threshold into the digital economy powering the world.