Online communities are spaces where people can come together to ask questions, discuss ideas, share interests, build relationships, and belong to a bigger group. Basically, being part of a community means having to disclose personal information and feelings, and it’s important to recognize the unintended risks that can come with that. It’s also important to know the external factors that play into community safety.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the risks you should watch out for, and some tips on how to keep your online community safe.
Creating and enforcing community guidelines is an absolute must when building your online community. It’s actually one of the first steps that you need to do when setting up your community for the first time. Community guidelines consist of rules that your members need to agree to before joining the community. It also covers your terms of service and acceptable use policy, penalties for violations, and rules for account suspension and termination.
Before you even start onboarding members to your community, it’s important that you have a team that is mainly focused on managing the community and ensuring its growth. Part of this is monitoring users and content, as well as keeping offenders in check.
Content involving hate speech, violence, pornography, and any other posts that violate community guidelines need to be investigated and removed from your feed ASAP. It’s also important to recognize trouble-makers, and take appropriate action against them.
People find comfort in anonymity. They are more comfortable talking when there’s less pressure to disclose their identity and maintain a positive image. Anonymity is a common feature of online communities, and this positively sets them apart from social media platforms.
It may seem counterintuitive to prevent users from sharing personal identifying information, but this is actually a good option to give users to help keep their accounts safe. The point of posting anonymously isn’t to enable negative content, but to give users the freedom to freely express who they are without having to reveal who they are.
It goes without saying that Community Safety is everyone’s job. From community managers to community members, everyone has a responsibility to look out for each other. Creating a vibrant community that everyone enjoys means fostering a safe and positive environment where communities grow and thrive. Make sure your platform has the right set of tools that empower your members to speak up when they see inappropriate content — whether it’s directed at them or someone else.
Securing your community site is probably one of the first and most important step you can take to protect your community and users from being compromised by hacking or phishing scams. A great way to do this is to implement a password strength meter, together with password security guidelines.
Having passwords that are easily recognizable or contain basic personal information can increase users’ chance of falling victim to a cyber attack. Protect your members by allowing them to see just how vulnerable or strong their password is. This will help keep their credentials secure.
While it may be inconvenient to some users, it will help if you limit access to your community site over public or unencrypted connections. Hackers and phishers often use public connections, like those found in libraries, parks, and stores to get a hold of financial information and personal data.
You can also consider keeping your content private from search engines. Closed or private community sites are most effective for having sensitive and confidential group conversations. This is perfect for internal online communities, where people find help and support, as well as manage information and collaborate with each other.
The benefits of a public community site, on the other hand, is that you can reach a wider audience and invite more people to join the community. If you’re a customer-facing brand or a network group brought together by social or political cause, then limiting public access might not be the best decision for you.
Choosing the right platform is key to your community’s success. Your community platform should be able to protect your data and provide you the right management tools and solutions to help you create a safe and engaging space for your members.
Today, many community owners are choosing to host their online community on social media vs. custom online community platforms. Social media is a standard marketing tool, but it does not allow you to own or have direct access to your community or follower data, you are dependent on the rules and algorithms the provider has in place. Having a dedicated platform gives you complete ownership and control over your community — including moderation.
As a community management software, Beam.gg strives to provide online communities a safe environment where members feel free to express themselves. In the event that abusive or inappropriate behaviors happen, we want to make sure users have an easy way to report it to the management team. With Beam.gg’s safety features, community managers have access to powerful moderation tools such as Audit Logs, Member Reports, Word Filter, and Member Roles Assignment.