How to Moderate a Facebook Group and Not Have it Suck the Life Out of You: 8 Guidelines That Saved Me
Three years ago I was working at a small nonprofit and I made a Facebook group. Thinking very little of it at the time, I didn’t put much thought or attention into it. Then it got 3,000 members. And all of a sudden, it became a priority to moderate with some level of intention. Here is everything I’ve learned about being an admin to a large Facebook group.
1) Ask relevant screening questions and go for the secret word hack.
When you create a Facebook group, you get to pick a way to sort through prospective members by making them ask a series of questions. This is such an opportunity. Take your future community member and walk them through what it means to be a part of your group. Ask them questions that don’t just make sure they’re an awesome addition, but also that can help you steer the direction of the group moving forward.
But don’t stop there! The hack of integrating in a “Secret Word” into your rules and having them report it back to you is so helpful. This way you know your audience is actually reading the guidelines you tirelessly created. The amount of people who don’t end up answering this question always ends up astounding me in the groups I run, and I think it’s kept the groups relatively spam-free.
2) Balance out promotional posts.
This is perhaps where most Facebook groups either thrive or die. The issue of promotional posts has vexed many an admin. Some people love them, some hate them, and the truth is you probably won’t be successful in making everyone happy regardless of your policy.
The strategy that has worked the best for me so far is to balance them out to a certain day (or days) of the week. By doing so, people will be able to shout out their business ventures, IG handles, or their new Facebook group, but the whole group won’t just be that. At the end of the day, you want a place of genuine connection and promotional posts are just one-sided discourses for the most part.
3) Make clear guidelines.
While limiting promotional posts is a great guideline, it’s important you have others that are relevant to your community. Don’t let Facebook do all the heavy lifting and choose their default. You need to be specific with your groups’ intentions.
The other guideline I highly recommend is some sort of clear communication over what you do and don’t moderate. Moderating out of group connections gets… really messy. Instead of just dealing with the words you can see in the group you start receiving “he said/she said” arguments with screenshots… it’s a lot. A simple guideline like, “We moderate in group communications and trust members to resolve out of group interpersonal conflicts independently” will suffice.
4) Include a way to resolve conflict.
Speaking of conflict, it’s inevitable. Anytime a group gets large, there are more different voices in the room to disagree with one another. Conflicts aren’t just possible, they’re probably.
So what to do if a conflict pops up? Have a clear way to handle it that isn’t ultimately making you the sole judge and jury. Some of my most successful groups have protocols where people are initially muted until they take responsibility and apologize. It’s essentially like I’m their mom and putting them in time out until they say sorry and play nice. While this may not work for you, there should be some strategy you use to deescalate conflicts that you put in your group’s guidelines.
5) Avoid turning on post-approval for as long as you can.
Post-approval isn’t a good or bad thing, but I would argue that it should be avoided for as long as possible. Here’s why: Post approval slows your group’s growth down significantly. Think about it. If someone in your group had a pressing question, but you fell asleep for the night, they don’t get their answer until the next day. That same person will just find another group that will let them post whenever they want.
Plus when you do finally wake up, you’re probably not going to want to be the keeper of all of the posts anyway. That’s a heavy weight for anyone and I’d argue that it doesn’t exactly enable community building if you are still overseeing everything.
Now this shifts if your group is a certain size. Groups over 10k members could start considering post approval. In these situations, post approval can be a way to intentionally slow down traffic and get in more relevant posts.
6) Consider adding to your admin team.
Everyone deserves time off, and you’re no exception. Taking social media breaks is simply good for your mental health. But these breaks simply aren’t possible unless you have a team in your corner.
You should be able to trust your admin team to handle any large issues that come up. From conflict mitigation, to rule clarifications, to post approval if you have those turned on. And to find someone you trust enough to do all that- it can be tough.
I thoroughly recommend adding in an application process for your potential new moderators and administrators. If your group is large enough, it also might be worth having them periodically circulate out of their leadership role and back into the group. This is a great way to ensure the group remains community oriented.
7) Use admin tools to help you sort through all the moderating you’ll have to do.
In June of 2021, Facebook rolled out some automation tools for community building, and simply put, they freaking rock. These automation tools allow you to more easily accept members into the group and allow you to get alerts for posts that have certain key words in them. If you don’t have any additional admins or moderators to help you out, and you’re still in the “grow” phase where you don’t want to roll out post approval, this is an incredible option. Let the robots be your right hand man.
8)Bring something to the table!
Perhaps most importantly of all, you have to bring YOU to your group. This isn’t the time to sit back and hope that others engage. Plan days of the week to ask questions or play games with your community. If you’re local (or heck, if you’re not) plan events or Zoom meetups for people to chat.
Facebook even lets you schedule posts in your group. Start noticing when people are active and you can schedule out a week’s worth of engagement at a time. When you get the notifications rolling in that people are chatting back, you’ll have an opportunity to get back to them then.
The more active your group is, the more desirable it looks for future members to help your group grow even more. People are looking for communities where people are posting regularly and Facebook shows them that data before they click to join.
There ya have it!
Hope all my trials and tribulations with having a successful Facebook group help someone out there! It’s not easy, but to be honest, Facebook groups are some of the best part of the social media platform these days. You’re doing the world a big service in creating special online spaces for community.