Facebook groups mirror similar dynamics of in person communities online. This goes to say that creating and maintaining a successful online community presents similar challenges of creating in person communities. Communities, in general, stem from the fact that there are a group of people who are interested in the same thing. By taking these communities online, the barrier of having to physically meet is not present allowing people from all over the world to come together. The potential is endless; however, every community requires rules and moderation to function well.
The online community I have created is called Miami Food Vice and it is a Facebook Group. This community comes together with the common interest in the culinary scene of Miami. In this group, honest and genuine food reviews are posted along with any photos and descriptions so that others may get a sense of what the restaurant is really like. Food in Miami is very culturally diverse, and this group encourages people to explore and discover new culinary flavors.
To ensure that this review-based group functions well a few rules are in place.
The first rule speaks to the group’s multicultural quality. No culturally insensitive comments will be tolerated. All cultures and backgrounds are embraced in the Miami food guide group and any culturally insensitive comment will result in an immediate expulsion. The second rule speaks to how it is acceptable to speak to each other. It is expected that people be kind and courteous, therefore, all communications will be respectful and decent towards Miami’s local business as well as the other members of the group. The last rule is to preserve the group’s valuable content. No promotion or spam items are allowed including advertising or commercial posts. Also, in this last rule, it is stated that the reviews posted are to be genuine and truthful to maintain the group’s value. These rules are to be enforced as necessary.
By having these rules in place, I as a moderator, am establishing the standards of the group right from the beginning. When one first joins the group, it is important that the standards are communicated to them. I do this by first stating the purpose of the group. The purpose of this Facebook Group community is to provide a guide to the best restaurants in the city of Miami with as much details as possible such as price range, experience, entertainment, food, vegan options, and anything else to inform someone who has not dined there before of Miami’s food gems. After people read the group’s purpose, they know what they are signing up to. This is followed by defining inappropriate and appropriate content, defining standards of conduct, and communicating the location focus.
Now that the group rules and standards are established comes the fun part, engaging with members and seed conversations. As the moderator of Miami Food Vice, I do this by asking questions, posting polls, sharing reviews and experiences, and including lots of photos and videos to provide visual content. I also make sure to interact with all people who comment to validate and acknowledge their communication.