Career Growth

Top 5 Lessons I've Learned From Moderating a 14K+ Member Slack Community

Cierra Loflin
March 27, 2023

During the first quarter of 2023, more than 60,000 messages were sent in the Superpath Slack community. According to our analytics tool, Campfire, these messages were primarily in our freelance, SEO, and content strategy channels. I'm the moderator of this 14,000+ member group, and I’ve only had actually to moderate about 100 of those messages.

It wasn't always that way and I've learned a lot as the group has grown. 

The biggest shift has been going from moderating mostly manually to figuring out ways to streamline and automate. As you'd imagine, the bigger a community grows, the more moderation you'll need to keep things under control. But being a team of one, you have to figure out ways to moderate *smarter* since adding manpower isn’t always an option. 

Below are five key lessons I'd like to share with anyone who's considering moderating a B2B community.

1. Guide members rather than police them

As a community moderator, you want people to feel comfortable asking you questions and coming to you for advice. At the same time, it's up to you to establish and maintain clear rules and guidelines to lay the foundation for the group. Striking a balance between being approachable and authoritative can be tough, but it is necessary.

Almost every day, members post something in the wrong channel. We have over 20 channels in Superpath so it's bound to happen.

Rather than just deleting a wrong-channel post and putting it in the right one, I comment under the post asking the person to move it to the right place. This helps people learn what each channel is used for and what doesn't belong in each one, respectively. The idea is that over time, this leads to less moderating since people learn what goes where.

2. Don't argue with dissatisfied members

Another unfortunate reality of being a community moderator—members aren't always going to like you or your rules. It's a no-brainer but worth saying: When members get upset with you, don't get upset back. Like in a customer-service role, accept that dissatisfied people are part of the job.

For example, a common misunderstanding is what counts as a promotional post. I define promo as distributing anything you or your company created (webinars, events, blogs, LinkedIn posts) outside the #gen-promotion channel. People will sometimes veil a promo-style post with a helpful angle, like sharing a useful tool.

The solution is simple: Repeat the commenting-style approach from above, asking the OP to move the post to #gen-promotion. If they argue it's not promotion, use a friendly tone and explain the rules in a black-and-white way. 

While it can be frustrating for members to argue with you, arguing back would only escalate the situation and damage your reputation among other group members.

3. Provide support docs to make everyone's lives easier

Members, especially new ones, need ample support to get the most out of the community. After noticing a lot of repeated requests and questions, I got organized by creating a Community Wiki on Slite. These docs include answers to FAQs, simple tutorials recorded on Loom, and other resources.

Here's an overview of our help docs:

As Superpath grows and changes, these help docs are constantly updated and changed. To increase visibility, we've added this Community Wiki to the #intros and #general channel descriptions in Slack.

4. Automate when you can

Did you know you can set up Slack bots that are triggered by certain words? This has been a big help in reducing the time spent moderating.

Here are some of our most often-used Slack bots and the rationale behind them:

  • Courses & certs: Anytime someone uses the word course(s) or certificate(s), a bot responds with the link to an Airtable base with courses. This helps cut down on repeat discussions with people asking for and recommending courses.
Slackbot in action screenshot
  • Link exchange: Black hat link swapping requests used to be a common issue in our #content-collab channel. Now if anyone uses the word link swap or link exchange, the bot responds by saying we don’t allow it in the group and links to the group guidelines.
Slackbot in action for moderating link exchanges
  • Authory Portfolio: Anytime someone uses the word portfolio(s), a bot responds with our favorite portfolio site. This is actually an ad for one of our sponsors, Authory.
Screenshot of authorly portfolio ad bot

Though these aren't foolproof—sometimes the course bots gets triggered when people aren't asking for course recommendations—they help moderate common messages and are worth the few minutes it takes to set them up.

5. Create a welcoming environment where people can learn and share

One of the main goals of any community should be for everyone to feel welcome, regardless of gender, ethnicity, background, or orientation.

To help facilitate this, moderators should regularly engage with members and respond to their questions and comments. Even if it's just adding an emoji or quick thought to someone's question that hasn't been answered yet—the little things make a difference.

Creating a welcoming, inclusive environment can also be done through events. You can show members your community values representation by choosing diverse guests.

AMAs are one of our most popular monthly events. AMAs are held in our general channel for one hour, where members drop questions around a theme and the guest responds by typing in threads or recording Looms. Some of our guests this year have included:

  • Emily Triplett Lentz—the Senior Manager of Content at Calendly who talked about product-led growth.
Emily Triplett Lentz AMA screenshot
  • Marijana Kay—SaaS freelance writer and Founder of Freelance Bold who answered questions on freelance project management.
Screenshot from AMA with Marijana Kay on freelancing.
  • Maggie Leung—VP at ClickUp (ex-NerdWallet VP of content and a16z exec editor) who spoke about career development and transitions.
Screenshot from AMA with Maggie Leung

Additionally, our new Member of the Month feature gives a voice to people who might be less visible in the Slack community but have something to offer. To keep this low lift, I ask the member of that month to nominate the person for the next month, which keeps things rolling.

Slack Member of the Month feature

Events are a sticky element of the group, which means they encourage members to check in from time to time. They also can help entice new members to join.

Embrace trial and error, and have fun!

While many things have worked out well for the group—the courses Slack bot, the monthly AMAs, etc.—there have been some failed experiments. And this is totally normal! It’s one of the best ways to learn what resonates with the group. 

For example, I set up a Weekly Wins bot powered by Airtable as a way for people to share what they were proud of that week. People were into it the first week or two, but as weeks passed, people were answering less and less. I realized this wasn't an engaging weekly question and turned off the automation.

It’s all a process. With time, I've gotten better at moderating in terms of 1) enforcing rules and guidelines angle 2) curating a welcoming and diverse community. Both are important for growth!

The key is staying consistent with moderation, being patient, and having fun. 

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