Congratulations on getting your marketplace up and running, your audience is growing and content is now steadily flowing in. To keep growing, you know you need a certain quality on your site or app, and you have read everything there is to read about “Moderation Methods”.
However, you are already starting to feel that the very basic moderation you have in place will probably not scale that well and you need to make a decision on how to move forward. A decision that will affect the future of your company: To develop in-house or to outsource? We have seen many examples of this dilemma and here are some things we have learned.
Effective moderation is a mix of manual and automation that works together seamlessly. Needless to say, achieving this requires both a team and a tool, but how to obtain them is up for discussion. There are a few different combinations and alternatives to consider here and they all come with pros and cons. We will go through the most common approaches and share our opinions based on the thoughts UGC-dependent companies around the world share with us every day.
The Moderation SWAT Team
Content moderation is a lot more complex than you may think at first and it takes time to build up the knowledge needed to see through sophisticated scams, code-named illegal content and advanced counterfeit. But that’s not enough, cyber-criminals are extremely good at spotting trends and take advantage in more innovative ways than you can imagine. This is why you need a “moderation swat team” built up of analysts and industry experts competent in the processes of analyzing patterns to detect new ways of getting through your eagle eye moderators and automation filters. For example: Carla the car-expert will instantly recognize the “too-good-to-be-true” deals and Tim the ticket-pro will know if the UEFA-cup final tickets look suspicious. Without these experts you will have a very slow team that needs to look up every single car model before being able to make a decision.
Your Professional Moderation Partner
A professional moderation outsourcing partner can solve this problem immediately as they will have the experience and structures to quickly set up a team that operates according to your site policies. But a good moderation partner will also give you insights that will help you get a better understanding of current fraud patterns and data on things like what type of content is trending on your particular site. An expert moderation partner can also scale up really quickly as they are used to utilizing resources efficiently and if needed hire and train new staff quicker than you probably would yourself.
Extra Hands and Eyes
A general “BPO” without the extensive experience and expertise with UGC moderation will give you some extra hands and eyes, often at a very low price. This can be the short term solution you need if your team is getting overwhelmed, but you will pretty soon need to find a better way to be able to guarantee a safe and clean marketplace, as trust and quality is vital for continuous growth, which you can read more about in “Why Moderation is Vital for Marketplace and Dating Startups”.
Doing It Yourself
If you choose to build up your own moderation team, this article on “How we Build Moderation Teams to Deliver Success” will give you some valuable tips on how to get started. Another option is to engage a moderation partner for your first year or two, to get a flying start and gather the data and insights needed to build up an internal team at a later stage. This will also allow you to focus on growth in a critical period of your site’s or app’s life.
Collaborating with Your Partner
If you decide to hire a moderation partner, choose it with care and make sure that they understand the importance of communication. You will need a dedicated contact person with whom you communicate regularly. Set up processes for not only reporting KPIs, but also for continuous learning both ways. Your partner needs to be extremely responsive to things going on in your company and flexible to make quick changes. But they should also communicate back to you patterns seen and educate you on how to adjust your policies accordingly. Last but not least are the cultural aspects. The partner needs to understand the specific needs and cultural aspects of your particular market, and for them to become a natural extension of your team, the time zone, language and culture have to be taken into consideration. If you cannot communicate on your time zone, in your language and in the manner you are used to, the collaboration risks being forced and un-natural which is a sure way to fail.
The Automation Tool
How hard can it be to hack together a profanity filter that catches bad language and illegalities? Not that hard. How hard is it to maintain it and keep it up to date in an ever-changing digital environment? A little tougher and much more time consuming. An automation tool is only as good as its filters and, just as with manual moderation, you need to always be one step ahead. And moving into the future, you will need some more advanced technology like machine learning.
A ready-made tool will allow you to focus on your top priorities: growing your audience, building a platform or fine tuning conversion and retention. But more important is that you will get a short-cut into the latest technology, which is in really rapid development right now. Machine learning is the word on everyone’s lips in 2016, and things are happening extremely fast in this area. Even if your extremely smart devs spend significant time on research and development, it will be a true challenge to compete with those whose only priority is to fine-tune algorithms and learn from the bigger user base that comes with several customers.
Building your own tool can allow you to fine-tune it even more to your particular needs, and it may also be easier to integrate with other systems that you have built yourself. Just keep in mind that the more you integrate the harder it will be to maintain. Most of our customers who have had their own moderation tools are realizing that they keep down-prioritizing the maintenance due to more urgent fires and growth opportunities closer to their core business. And all of a sudden they find themselves with an outdated automation solution that simply doesn’t do the job. So if you choose this option, make sure you give your developers the time they need for maintenance and that someone keeps an eye on the filters in order to fine-tune them according to user patterns, policies and trends.
Where Should You Put Your Focus?
Think about it, the challenges to succeed in a saturated market are plenty and you should really try to put all your focus into what you do the best: developing that kick-ass marketplace and get buyers and sellers to try it out! It might not surprise you that we promote an external product and team, but we are seeing too many examples of marketplaces getting stuck with old technology or startups slowed down when trying to handle overwhelming amounts of content that turned out to be more complex than originally anticipated. Whichever way you choose our main piece of advice is to plan for the long run. You will save a lot of resources if you make the right decision on moderation strategy from the start.