One Week As Class Moderator

I just finished my week as moderator and it was quite a bit more difficult than I had expected. Before the week had begun, I created a list of articles that I had planned to share over the course of the week. However, as the week progressed, I scratched my list and looked for more content that would hopefully hit a nerve amongst the other students in hopes of greater engagement. Participation and engagement felt low most of the week, which felt frustrating, but there was a good group of regular contributors to the community throughout the week.

Despite some difficulty starting conversations, I still enjoyed the assignment. It caused me to look at content a bit differently. Each morning, as I was looking for something I felt was worthy of sharing with the class, I had to think about what conversations could be started from the piece of content. Was it a cut and dry piece to which no one could add much insight? Or did the content raise some questions in which I could bring to the class? It made me recognize the importance of writing to engage rather than just inform or tell.

Some of the major points from the topics and questions that were raised during my week include:

  • whether or not 6 characters for a hashtag is ideal for optimal engagement
  • a unique way to spur user-generated content for your brand—will it work?
  • knowing when a blog just doesn’t make sense for your content strategy
  • earning yourself a free beer for engaging with a company—would this type of campaign work well in the US?
Ideal Character Length for Online Content

SumAll and Buffer share the ideal character length for nearly everything online. Photo via

Some of the posts left questions unanswered. I think that since there aren’t many students regularly involved in the discussions each week, having a new post each day made it difficult to start worthwhile conversations surrounding a previous topic. Having additional opinions and insights from other students would’ve better helped the rest of us to come to some conclusions each day. Overall, I believe that this assignment provided a good glimpse into some responsibilities of creating and curating content that most people wouldn’t expect.

Two Questions to Ask When No One is Talking

via Google+

via Google+

Last week, I took over the reins of the Google+ Community to moderate the class discussion about content strategy. Some posts generated discussion and others didn’t, and it got me thinking about people who moderate professionally. Every day, community managers and moderators post content, measure engagement, interact with commenters and then do it all over again. There have to be certain times when a piece of content is posted and no one responds. When posting so much content daily, not everything is going to be successful. A moderator shouldn’t see this as a failure but they should take the opportunity to identify why the post didn’t perform well.

Here are two questions a moderator should ask when no one is talking:

1. Am I targeting the right audience?

Whether it be the entire content strategy or one particular post, it’s important to know if the content being produced is focused on the right audience. Before you even create the social media account or platform you’re moderating, you know what audience you’re targeting. Make sure you know how they use social media and more importantly, how they best like to consume content. Certain audiences can be extremely particular with the types of content they like. Some groups love photos but hate videos, others prefer links, so it’s important to know and cater to these preferences.

The next step is to go through either the post or all of your recent content to see if you’re targeting it in the way you intend to. After doing something for a while, it’s not always easy to take a step back and examine your own work. But, it’s extremely necessary.


2. Am I talking about the right things?

If you’re a blog about science, don’t post about literature unless you have a fantastic way to relate back to science. There’s a reason people come and comment, it’s because they love or are experts in a certain subject. They don’t come to find out more about other subjects. So if you answer “yes” to question 1, this might be the problem.

Some groups that require moderation talk about some very specific topics. This summer, I moderated a group that only talked about cloud-based technology solutions for small businesses. They didn’t want to talk about mobile solutions for small businesses or social media solutions for small business, only solutions related to cloud-based technology. The big issues is that there’s not always fresh content to talk about, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be inactive. It’s important to give the audience the content related to the subject they are interested in and keep the conversation going when the conversation isn’t necessarily fresh.

#ContentStratClass Moderation Week – A Pleasant Surprise!

I have to admit that I had some initial trepidation about, but was pleasantly surprised by the experience of moderating a week in #ContentStratClass.

That sense of pleasant surprise is not because I’m skeptical by nature (thank the news business for that)!

It’s not because I’m naïve enough to think my posts were so wonderful that classmates would clamor to respond and contribute to them.

It’s because I’ve had some less-than-satisfying moderation experiences in prior Syracuse University classes, and I know how hard a job online community moderation truly is.

You can do your research, come up with great content, post it enthusiastically and engagingly, and still get a lukewarm–or worse, “zeroed out” reception from your community. And despite your best efforts, much of that situation can be totally out of your control!


“Zero-ed out” – What it

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case for me during my #ContentStratClass moderation week (Oct. 19-26). So, I was back to my happy state of class-participation satisfaction.

As directed, I introduced myself and began discussion on Sunday, October 19:

My first Moderation Week post - 10/20

My first Moderation Week post – 10/20


On Monday, October 20, I posted what I thought was a pretty interesting point of discussion…and was very surprised and pleased to have some immediate response! (Thank you, thank you, Melissa Lowery and Ben Glidden!)

To boot, I found out quite to my surprise that both Melissa and Ben have had agency experience (something we had in common).

Feeling buoyed, I continued the  discussion…delving deeper into my classmates’ thoughts on the topic. To my (relief) and further happy experience, I elicited some more responses, and took advantage of the situation to continue to engage my audience.

moder wk 2Then, after the mid-week point (HumpDay fatigue, maybe?) I saw responses taper off.

To offset that, I posted another piece, this time including an illustration of a sample process for content strategy operations, the topic of our weekly readings. I thought the imagery I found (even though it was a simplified process) might help me attract some added response from other class members who had yet to comment.

The week went fairly quickly, and because I had a family health situation going on ( my mom in the hospital), that made it a bit more difficult for me to check in, but I think that I persevered regardless of those circumstances.

oct 26I have a lot of admiration for community managers. From this experience, plus my previous ones in #CMgrClass, plus watching the work and process that goes into our instructors’ (Jenn Pedde and Kelly Lux) weekly online Twitter chat, #CmgrChat, I know how hard it is to engage people online and to keep communities of aligned interests active and engaged.

There are a jillion reasons why people can’t engage: disinterest, busy-ness, a heavy workload, personal issues, and the whatnot and diffused perspectives of 21st Century Life.

Still, a content strategist and planner or a community manager needs to keep trying to find ways to keep putting out the kind of information that will snag some attention and elicit some response–and importantly, provide some real value–to those you (hope/believe/pray) are still following you.

I’m very grateful to those who took the time to respond to me during my moderation week, for it truly made the experience gratifying.

I’ve been cognizant of how difficult it is to elicit response, so when I’ve been able, I’ve tried to be an active participant in others’ online moderation weeks.

In particular, the week after mine, I made a special effort to respond right away on the first day, to help another classmate benefit from the positive momentum that comes when someone responds to you online, and you make a connection, despite your lack of face-to-face interaction.

So that was my experience for Moderation Week! If anyone tells you it’s an easy thing, don’t believe them! It’s hard work, it’s intellectually engaging,  a little bit challenging, and for those who care that much, it also has a degree of emotional work.

I’m happy to have had the experience again, and I’m also happy that my week turned out to be a good moderating experience!