Picture this - you’re drinking your first cup of coffee on a Monday morning and decide to scroll through the Facebook group you created for your online course members. But, instead of harmless posts of members asking each other questions, you’re confronted with an onslaught of trolling messages and spammy posts by Bob from Wisconsin.
It’s not an ideal scenario, but it happens in the digital world daily. That’s why we want to talk about community guidelines. Having an online community for your audience, whether it’s on Discord, a hashtag, or through Kajabi, can be very beneficial. It’s a place where your audience can go to talk to other experts, and it can be a safe space to ask questions and learn. But, without guidelines, there’s a high chance some audience members will go rogue - like Bob. This situation can make others in the group uncomfortable and hurt your brand.
Keep reading as we guide you through everything you need to know about online community guidelines.
Why community guidelines are important
Having a branded community in the first place is highly encouraged for knowledge entrepreneurs. Around 27% of customers use online communities in their buying decision process, and online communities help nurture overall brand loyalty.
The community you serve as a knowledge entrepreneur is part of your brand - that means anything negative or bad could come back to you and reflect poorly on your business. You want your branded community to be a place where people are constantly engaging in the right way. Establishing guidelines upfront can help limit problems that might arise so no one will be scared off and so it can remain a safe and creative space.
What you should include in community guidelines
Wherever you decide to build your community, remember that it’s your branded community. That means it should follow the same mission you have for your knowledge commerce business as well as the same tone your audience might find on your website or podcast.
Because it’s your community, you get to establish the house rules upfront. Here are some important things you should consider addressing in your community guidelines:
- Personal Information: As a best practice, people should not be giving out personal information including numbers, addresses, or financial information in an online community.
- Spamming: Be sure to include what you qualify as spamming whether it’s posting over and over again on a post or something else.
- Swearing/NSWF content: People can easily be crude and inappropriate online, and making it clear that certain topics and words are not allowed is important.
- Discrimination: Make sure you address rules against discriminatory content which should include call-outs on racism, sexism, and more.
- Illegal activities: This could include information about copyrighted materials, unauthorized content, or pirated content.
- Trolling: No one likes a troll - define what trolling is in your community (irrelevant content, inflammatory content).
While the above is just a suggested list of things to include information on - you might feel the need the add even more subjects. Remember, when creating your community guidelines take where it’s located into account. For example, rules for a closed Facebook group might be different than rules for a public hashtag on Twitter.
Community Guideline Examples
The good thing about community guidelines is that many companies and brands have gone before you to create successful examples. Here are a few from other brands to help get you started:
- Grammarly - Grammarly’s community guidelines are focused on building connections with other people - it calls out support, kindness, and constructiveness. Plus, it even mentions spammy content and lets you know how to avoid it.
- Hubspot - in Hubspot’s community guidelines, you’ll find the platform emphasizes how its community embodies the company’s values. For example, they want you to “share the love” to make its community a richer place.
- Facebook - Facebook was one of the original places to start an online community so it comes as no surprise that the social media giant has its own in-depth community guidelines. It's obvious in Meta’s guidelines that it wants to empower people to communicate and remain authentic in a safe space.
These examples are only some of the hundreds of guidelines out there. While they will help you gain inspiration for your own branded community, don’t forget to stick to your brand’s tone, values, and goals as you’re developing your guidelines.
How to Enforce Community Guidelines
After you take the time to carefully curate your branded community guidelines - what happens next? The only way guidelines can work is if people know they exist and are enforced.
The first step to enforcing your community guidelines is to make them accessible and available in numerous places - otherwise, they will be easy to forget. Wherever your community is located, provide a viewable pdf or document of your guidelines. You can also post them on your website and social media. Another successful method is to have community members read the guidelines before they join - this can come in the form of an agreement or box they check before they are added to the community acknowledging they have read the guidelines.
Now, we can’t say this enough but monitor your community daily for any misbehavior. While you should be actively engaging and communicating in your branded community already, you should also keep an eye out for those violating the community guidelines. When in doubt, always have a plan in place for serious threats or inappropriate behavior.
Build Your Guidelines and Community Today
Online branded communities are a must for those in the creator economy as it’s a great place for your audience to engage and learn. Building relevant and impactful community guidelines will help protect your brand and further your audience growth. Ready to get started? Create your own online community today.
Do I need a community manager or moderator?
Monitoring your community is very important to ensure members are following the established guidelines. If your community is quickly growing and you do not have the bandwidth to monitor your community yourself, hiring a community manager could be beneficial, but it isn’t necessary.
Where should I post my community guidelines?
Post your community guidelines where members can see and access them at any time. This could be on your website, in a link in the community description, or even emailed to them directly.
How often should I review my community guidelines?
Review your community guidelines as often as you need - if your online community starts to grow, you might find you need to update certain guidelines as new situations arise. Taking suggestions and feedback from members is also a great way to refresh your guidelines.
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