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While online merchants' use of social networks can bring benefits, they also can carry harmful consequences. Online forums, blogs, social networks and other Web 2.0 community features can foster customer loyalty, improve natural search rankings and increase site traffic for the web retailers who host them.
However, hosting these features requires oversight and moderation to ensure inappropriate material is not posted, according to a new report from Forrester Research. It urges retailers to set policies and practices in advance.
Content moderation policies determine when to publish or delete user generated content. When approached correctly, content policies support marketing and business objectives, build user trust, and prevent disastrous moderation decisions made in tight timeframes, advise the researchers in a report: "Crafting A Content Moderation Policy." Successful policies limit destructive behavior while supporting a wide range of user contributions.
Social computing is evolving quickly, and online merchants and others hosting community features can follow three guidelines to create a policy that can adapt to emerging standards, the report advises:
- Reveal statistics about the implementation of a policy. Because a policy is a promise to users, publishing statistics about how content is moderated shows that the retailer is keeping the promise.
- Create a policy collaboratively. The community co creates content and conversation. Online sellers can build support for their brands and social computing initiatives by inviting the same level of community input into content moderation policies.
- Create a gray zone for content that should be flagged, not banned. Retailers and others that host community features should consider more options than simply deleting content or publishing it in its entirety. Flickr, for example, enables users to specify that some photos they've uploaded are not suitable for children under 17.
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