Creating these terms can be overwhelming, so to get you started here are some basic elements to consider:
Since online communities usually have a personal networking component via online member profiles, its important individuals are held accountable for providing accurate information. Impersonation or sharing of account details are actions members should be held personally liable for; they should not be representative of negligent practices on behalf of the organization.
This might seem like a trivial matter, however the nature of some communities can have a large impact on an individual’s personal brand, livelihood, and reputation within key networks. Users should know that your organization takes these matters seriously.
Use of Content
There is a wide variety of content shared within online communities. Instead of detailing proper usage for each type, relegating its purpose for personal use only should minimize a majority of misconduct – such as external sharing of member profile information, lead generation materials, or private downloads.
Of course, selling, plagiarizing, or circumventing security measures to steal content should be expressly forbidden.
As user-generated content can often be of a delicate nature, protecting organizations from disagreeable opinions expressed by others is paramount. Make reference to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the United States Copyright Act of 1976. The former expressly protects organizations from legal disputes resulting from third-party user-generated content.
Finally, it’s important to express that once content is submitted to an online community, it becomes property of the community â€“ not solely the member nor the organization, but all those with a vested interest. Why? When someone posts content in an online community it doesn’t singularly benefit the organization, nor the original poster. It benefits the entire online community.
However, to stick with legalese, by contributing content to an online community, members should realize that they grant a royalty-free and irrevocable right to the organization to publish, distribute or revise content (with exception to the disclosure of personal, private information).
Disputes Between Users
This might sound like playing with fire, but it’s a fact – organizations have no obligation to mediate or resolve disputes between community members. Community administrators reserve the right to act under their own discretion, whether it be taking an active role in a disagreement, modifying or deleting content, or removing the offending individuals’ access to the community altogether.
With any luck, your online community with be a productive, active, and respectful space with members who truly want to get the most out of their participation and experience. However, in the event that you do have to deal with legal threats, inappropriate content, and undesirable behaviors, you want to have the proper policies in place to aid in de-escalation. Setting the standards of behavior for your online community is an important aspect of online community management that shouldn’t be overlooked. Lay the basic groundwork to protect the community and your organization; rest assured that you can always update and amend your policies as needed.
Sr. Director, Agent Experience, Liveops, Inc.
Katie is Sr. Director, Agent Experience at Liveops, Inc. She has been directing the growth and development of communities since 2008. She’s worked with communities ranging from Fortune 100s to associations and non-profits. Prior to Higher Logic, Katie spearheaded the portfolio of Toolbox.com communities at Ziff Davis, Inc., with more than 2.3 million members.
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