Saturday, March 01, 2014

Authenticating Your Brand Agents, Digital Brand Best Practices Part2

To makes sure that the network’s moderators are easily identified and others do not try to pose as them to abuse other users, moderators who are visible on the network should be easily identified. 

You can do this using special avatars, screen names or other identifiers. Or, you can institute s verification application where any user can click on a moderator’s screen name or avatar to have them authenticated by the network (“Mod65 is one of X network’s moderation team”). Those who pose as moderators will not be verified.

When well-meaning users adopt officially-sounding IDs or use your logos in their avatars it only creates problem.  If they know enough to be truly helpful and otherwise meet the qualifications you may establish for volunteers, you can respond to your helpful users by making them official.  Otherwise, you may want to police the use of any logo, ID, avatar or game tag that gives the impression that anyone other than your authorized representatives are more than an ordinary user. You can get your users involved in helping by asking them to report others posing as moderators.

A network should find a way to institutionalize positions and roles instead of letting your moderators be identified by their own names and accounts.  Although it could be helpful to let your moderators to develop friendly relationships with your users, because it created a more trusted “one of us” environment between users and moderators, it is often not a good idea to promote risk-manager personalities for several reasons.  While it works with start-ups, sometimes, it doesn’t scale.  If the person leaves your network, it can be upsetting to users who learned to rely on that individual instead of your network as a whole.

How visible do you want your moderators to be on your network?

Look at your network from the users’ perspective. You can find ways to make it helpful for your users to find a moderator on the network when they need them. (They may be more comfortable in some settings to be able to flag them down like a passing police car, while in other cases they would prefer never to see a moderator.)

Determine what your moderation staff should look like online.  Obvious? Inconspicuous? Ask your users which makes them more comfortable.

If you've been in business for awhile and now expanding and professionalizing, you may get push-back from your early moderators, since many want to be recognized or in cases where they have been active under their own names for a longer period of time, have built-up trusted reputations online using their own names or game tags and may not be willing to retire those names.  

To address this, you may want to create bio pages for your more popular moderators and customer service staff members and for senior moderation and customer service managers.  But be aware that the more information you post or allow to be shared about your staff, the more vulnerable they are to trolls and offline harassers.  Weigh this suggestion carefully and make sure your team understands how to protect themselves online and offline if you elect to make them more accessible.

When considering this option, recognize that when someone is terminated by you and served in moderation capacity and their internal access is terminated, nothing may prevent them from remaining on as a user, continuing to use their own name (the same name that has been in use as a moderator). 

They remain cloaked with apparent authority from you. 

In addition, the resignation or termination of customer service staff who are “trusted brands” of their own on your network can create disruption with users and other third-parties.  It also makes them more valuable commodities to your competitors, since many have their own following.  The best method of countering these risks is by institutionalizing their roles as a moderator.  This applies equally to volunteers.

Decide if they may identify themselves on other networks as an employee or agent of yours.[1]  Allowing your employees and agents to identify themselves as such on other networks and elsewhere online makes it much more difficult to police the association severance. It invites help inquiries on other networks. It's risky with no upside for you.

If you determine that your personnel and agents may not identify themselves as such online, other than in an approved manner on your networks, ask them to remove all references that already exist.  Run Google, Bing, Facebook and Yahoo! searches for their online names or game tags to make sure they have not missed any references.

[1] Parry Aftab has consistently advised against allowing employees or agents to identify themselves online as a moderator or customer service representative.  Her volunteers at WiredSafety, with few exceptions, are not permitted to identify themselves outside of their own channels, to others online. It encourages posers to pretend to be WiredSafety volunteers and threaten users or alienate the moderators on other networks.

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