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The Importance of Following the Rules of Online Communities

Updated on March 13, 2015
Following the rules will mean that you have a much better time in online communities
Following the rules will mean that you have a much better time in online communities | Source


Online communities are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. Whether it's Facebook groups, Google+ communities, Pinterest group boards, LinkedIn groups or a dedicated forum, many people enjoy spending their time online with like-minded people; social media plays a huge role in what we do online.

Facebook alone now accounts for an astonishing 20% of all pages viewed on the web! Google has thrown its considerable weight behind Google Plus, Twitter goes from strength to strength and the popularity of Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and more mean that social networks are definitely here to stay.

This article explores the importance of understanding the rules and guidelines of online communities and provides hints and tips on how to get the most out of them.

Social media and communities

An important part of these social networks is the idea of the communities within them - Facebook groups, Google+ communities, Pinterest group boards, LinkedIn groups etc. Communities also exist in many other areas: there are forums, message boards and other places where like-minded people gather all over the web.

If you want to get the most out of these communities, provide mutual benefit for yourself and other members and build up trust, it's important to know the rules and guidelines of the community that you're joining. This means understanding what the standards of behavior are, knowing what you can, and can't post, reading frequently asked questions, finding out what to do in the event of a problem and more.

Social media is a very powerful tool, when it is used well and responsibly
Social media is a very powerful tool, when it is used well and responsibly | Source

What you can do to help

You can become a helpful member of an online community by:

  • Understanding why you're joining the community
  • Making sure you join the right community
  • Understanding posting and other guidelines
  • Listening to moderators
  • Posting in the right way

We'll cover each of these in more detail below.

Joining an online community should be a mutually beneficial relationship
Joining an online community should be a mutually beneficial relationship | Source

Understanding why you're joining the community

If you're going to commit time and effort to an online community, it's worth thinking about your reasons for joining. These could be:

  • Networking and connecting with others
  • Finding out about specific topics
  • Expanding your understanding
  • Building trust in your expertise
  • Asking and answering relevant questions

If you're joining for one of these reasons, then it's almost certain that you'll add value to the community. If, however, you're joining just to promote yourself or your business, then you should probably reconsider. People that join communities only to post links to their own content or create spam don't add any value for anyone and may result in you being excluded from the community.

Making sure you join the right community

Because there are so many different groups and forums out there, choose a community that matches your interests and where you will feel at home.

Ask your friends, colleagues and social media contacts what communities they consider to be worthwhile. You'll get most value out of communities if you focus your effort in just one or two of them to begin with.

Sharing in a responsible way will be greatly appreciated
Sharing in a responsible way will be greatly appreciated | Source

Understand posting and other guidelines

It's vital to read through the rules and guidelines of any communities that you join so that you can learn what is, and isn't, acceptable. In particular, you should pay attention to the type of material that members are allowed to post; there may be rules about links, images, self-promotional posts and more, so read through the rules in detail.

Any guidelines will often be 'stickied / pinned' in forums or clearly visible in other communities, and if you don't see them, ask where you might be able to find a copy.

Listening to the moderators

Moderators are the people with authority in the community and are there to look after it and make sure that the rules and guidelines are followed. Its important to listen to what moderators have to say, as they may make tweaks or changes to rules and posts to ensure that the community remains a safe, interesting and useful place for all members.

Posting in the right way

When you decide to post content, ask yourself if it will be valuable, useful and worthwhile to other community members. Nobody wants to waste their time in a community reading posts that aren't relevant to their interests, so try to ensure that anything you share is good for all the members.

It's also important to provide a good introduction, subject matter, description and context for any posts that you make so that other people know what to expect from content that you share. If the community has separate areas and forums for specific types of posts, try to make sure that you submit your content to the right area.

How and why to share content

How many online communities do you belong to?

See results

In closing

Taking the time to read, understand and adhere to the rules and guidelines of a community will be appreciated by other members.

Posting good, relevant content benefits everyone, and the best way to understand what's acceptable is to find out what's expected of you prior to posting anything. That way, you can make sure that the time you and other people spend in the community is worthwhile for all of you.


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    • Paul Maplesden profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Maplesden 

      4 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Yes, as a former moderator of a large community I thought these types of guidelines would be helpful. If we can all adopt an attitude of being respectful, courteous and helpful, it would make these online communities a much better place.

    • Hannah David Cini profile image

      Hannah David Cini 

      4 years ago from Nottingham

      An interesting topic. I think that social etiquette is a much more complex issue now that social media is around.

      A good hub.


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