Community guidelines are the rules that direct how users should behave in your community. They should encourage valuable discussion and ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. Guidelines also need to clarify what isn’t allowed in your community and outline what will happen if someone breaks the rules.
Community Guidelines outline what actions are permitted and not permitted within your community. They are often referred to as your community’s code of conduct, community constitution, community roadmap, or community rules. They explain what activity is permissible and what can get a member suspended or blocked. They also outline your community’s values and mission to your members.
Community guidelines are important because they protect the integrity of your community and the safety of your members. They explain explicitly how your community members should act and behave.
Community guidelines also act as a resource for what your members should know about your community. For example, if you run a learning-based community, your community guidelines may offer information about weekly classes and expected participation to remain a part of the community.
Member behavior: This section will outline how your members should behave and interact with other community members. This section may also include rules about kindness and acceptable and unacceptable speech and behavior.
Moderator behavior: This section will explain what your members can expect from your moderators, including how they will interact with fellow community members and what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable.
Inappropriate or “jerk-type” behavior: This section will outline a range of inappropriate behavior, from light bullying to hate speech and harassment. There is usually an example of typical “jerky” behavior and an explanation of how it will not be tolerated.
Zero tolerance for discrimination and hate speech: Explain your zero-tolerance policy for harassment, hate speech, and discrimination.
How to submit a complaint: Your members should know how to contact their moderators if they want to file a complaint. The complaint process should explain when members can expect their complaints to be reviewed and when they will be contacted.
Disciplinary process: Your disciplinary process should be clear and direct in your guidelines. Your members should know what to expect if they break the rules. This section will usually include an escalation breakdown that varies per offense.
Clearly define your mission statement
Before you write your community guidelines, you should be clear about your organization’s mission statement. You should always incorporate your organization’s purpose and values into your community guidelines.
Consider your brand’s tone of voice
As you start to write your community guidelines, consider what tone you would like to strike. Do you want your guidelines to be humorous and lighthearted? Witty? Straight to the point? Your tone should be consistent with the rest of your brand’s personality.
Write guidelines with your members in mind
As you write your community guidelines, ensure you’re writing for your ideal member. How do you want your members to act within your community? What’s your perfect member’s model behavior? Think of the best-case scenario for your community and clearly break that down.
Get clear on what you want your community to accomplish
Decide on your ideal goals for your community. How would you like your community to grow? Take into account your community’s culture and atmosphere.
Be straightforward and direct in your guidelines
Do not add unnecessary words or flair that will confuse your members and cloud their judgment. Instead, offer examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior in your community.
Include rules about harassment, discrimination, and hate speech
This is self-explanatory, but do not forget to outline your rules about hate speech, discrimination, and harassment in your community guidelines. You should include a section about what your members can expect if they violate these rules.
Have someone else review your guidelines
Ask someone you trust to review your guidelines and ensure you’re not missing any vital information. Remember to proofread and spell-check your guidelines. Ultimately, ensure the guidelines are well-written, fair, and do not discriminate against any individuals.
Ensure your community guidelines can be easily found on your community platform. Your new members should be immediately directed to your community guidelines as part of the onboarding process.
Be very clear in your guidelines about consequences for bad behavior. Your members should know their moderators, including how their moderators will contact them if they violate the rules.
Create an escalation plan ahead of time. Your members may try to argue the rules with you, so it’s best if you have a plan for every type of scenario. Make sure your escalation plan is visible and public within your community.
Be prepared to update your guidelines and review them periodically. You may notice that some rules may not apply over time, or you may need to make adjustments. Devise a plan to do a review every quarter or at least twice a year.