Many people say that community building can be complex. But actually, it’s a ton of fun if you set up things the right way. Therefore, one of the first steps towards successfully fostering an online community is crafting rules and guidelines.
Your online community guidelines will encompass members following the standard rules and behavior inside your group. Also, they will guide moderators and community managers into building the best online group you can wish for!
What Are Community Guidelines?
Online community guidelines are a set of rules that govern the behavior of members of a group. Therefore, they can be used to enforce existing rules regarding harassment and hate speech. Also, they will help you avoid copyright infringement and other issues that may arise in the community.
If you manage multiple community platforms at the same time, then you’ll probably need more than one guideline template to set the boundaries according to what members need. For example, the rules for Discord servers can be different than the rules you need to manage a subreddit. It depends on who’s in the room and what you expect to get from that community platform in particular.
The purpose of community policies is to provide a framework for acceptable behavior within an online space. This can help with both legal compliance and to boost community engagement.
Why Is It Important To Have Community Guidelines?
When starting an online community from scratch, it’s crucial to establish clear rules both for moderators and members to define what is allowed and what is expected to occur in the group. Remember, a moderator is a member who’s responsible for making the community a friendly and safe place for everyone. Thus, having clear guidelines for moderators as well as rules for the whole community is the best way to invest in community culture for the long term.
In summary, establishing guidelines will help moderators and managers govern how members behave in the online community. It will also help set expectations for acceptable behavior and anticipate new members about what to expect from the community. Besides, it’s a great way to protect your community from spam and define what actions are considered violations.
How To Write A Guidelines Template
The most important thing about community guidelines is to make them clear, concise, and easy to understand. People won’t know how to behave if the group has complicated or confusing rules, and it can break your member onboarding process pushing them to leave your community for good.
So make sure everyone understands the purpose of the online community guidelines! You can include links in your welcome messages or send emails so new members can find them easily.
If you’re looking for a way to create your own guidelines template for your community, just make sure you take into account the following key elements 👇
1. Have your goals in mind
You’ll probably find that we name this piece of advice a lot in our community-building content. But to foster a successful community, the first thing you’ll have to do is keep your goals in mind. How do you want to incentive conversations? Which topics do you want to discuss about and which do you want to avoid?
Whether it’s built around a business, a product, or a topic, every community should have goals. And you’ll have to have them clearly stated when writing your community guidelines. Are you planning to sell a product, host events, or monetize a newsletter? Then you’ll need to build rules to allow this to happen.
💡 According to the 2022 CMX community industry report, 87% of organizations agree community is critical to the company’s mission
2. Explain why these rules exist in the first place
Explaining what those guidelines mean will help new members understand why it’s important for them to follow them. And not just think of them as arbitrary rules that don’t need explanation.
Remember that building community culture also means involving your member in each part of the process.
3. Be clear & straightforward
Use simple language and avoid jargon that only a handful of members will understand. Keep guidelines short and sweet — no more than two pages. And remember, this is not the place for in-depth explanations or examples. If you need more space, use footnotes or hyperlinks to redirect readers to other documents that provide more detail.
If the rules are too extensive, then chances are your new members don’t even bother to read them and just click “I agree” in the hurry. On the contrary, if you can make it short, you are helping them understand what is allowed and what is not in the community.
4. Don’t go overboard!
If you’re tempted to include every possible scenario in your guidelines, think again. Your members don’t want a 200-page document full of exceptions and special cases. They want one that covers the basics without being boring or overly restrictive.
5. Write with your members in mind
The most important part of online community guidelines is that they’re easy to understand and follow. Your members shouldn’t have to spend more than a few minutes reading through the document just to figure out how to do something they already know.
If you’re writing a set of rules for an existing online group, ask someone who isn’t familiar with what you’re doing if they can easily understand the information you’ve written down. If not, make sure everything is clear before sharing it with the community’s members!
On the other hand, avoid complex sign-up processes if you can. Complicated sign-up forms with captchas and verification bots are cool if you need to fight spam, but they can overwhelm new members as well.
Welcome Message & Basic Community Rules To Copy And Paste
If you don’t know how to start building your community guidelines, just take a look at our template with basic rules you might want in your community. Use them as a welcome message to help new members understand what is your community about.
Welcome to the [name of the community] community! This is a [your type of community] space where [target members] can gather, connect, and learn without fear of harassment, prejudice, or discrimination. The goals of our community are to [name goals].
To that end, we enforce the following rules. By joining this community, you agree to adhere to these guidelines or face removal from the community.
- When joining, introduce yourself to the rest of the community.
- Post questions and start discussions on any topics related to [your community niche].
- Treat others as you would treat them in real life.
- Communicate respectfully.
- Respect other members’ privacy.
- If you need help, reach mentors and community managers for support.
- To give us feedback, contact us directly at [contact email].
Rules & Restrictions
- Avoid inappropriate language. Any derogatory language towards any user is prohibited.
- No spamming. Don’t send a lot of small messages right after the other. These disrupt chat and make it hard to scroll through [the platform].
- No adult/other NSFW material.
- No advertisements. No invasive advertising. You can post your content in the [specific channel] if it’s relevant and provides value for the community.
- No offensive names or profile pictures.
- Threats are forbidden.
- Follow [the platform’s] Community Guidelines. You can find them here [link].
The admins and moderators will mute, kick, or ban at discretion. If you feel mistreated, message an admin and we will resolve the issue.
All [channels] will have pinned messages explaining what they are there for and how everything works. If you don’t understand something, feel free to ask!
Your presence in this community implies accepting these rules, including all further changes. These changes might be done at any time without notice. It’s your responsibility to check for them.
To conclude, each community has its own set of rules which make it work. Find those online community guidelines that make your group a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space. And avoid going too far with prohibitions!