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Everything You Need To Know About Community Guidelines

Community guidelines are the rules that direct how users should behave in your community. They should encourage valuable discussion and ensure everyone knows what is expected of them.
Written by
Last updated
October 23, 2023

Creating and managing an online community is an invaluable asset for brands — but also comes with challenges. 

Whether a community has trolls or loyal members, it can either boost or tarnish your brand's reputation. That's why understanding how to craft effective guidelines is no longer a nice-to-have — but vital so that your brand’s community can run effectively. 

In this post, we’ll cover how you can create community guidelines that’ll ensure your members have a safe and respectful place to engage with one another. Allowing them to share ideas, experiences and ultimately get more from your product or service.

Let’s dive in.

What are community guidelines?

Community guidelines are rules that explain to users how they should behave while engaging in your community. They encourage helpful discussion and ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. Guidelines also clarify what isn’t allowed in your community — and state the consequences if the rules are broken. 

At the same time, community guidelines act as a resource for your members if they have a question or need more information on a certain topic. For example, if you run a learning-based community, your guidelines may offer information about how tutors and students can interact with each other.

What are the benefits of having community guidelines?

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits having community guidelines can offer your brand and its customers.

Set up and maintain positive and productive interactions

By establishing clear expectations for behavior, community guidelines promote positive and relevant communication while also preventing conflicts. 

They protect members from abuse and harassment by stating what behavior is acceptable and what won’t be tolerated. This ensures your community remains a safe and welcoming space for all. 

Explain the consequences of breaking the rules

Since community guidelines outline what actions are permitted and not permitted — they should also explain what behaviors will lead to members getting their posts removed, accounts suspended, or blocked. This should also include what’ll happen if multiple community guidelines violations occur.

This helps remove any misunderstandings and conflicts that can easily arise if a member has their privileges revoked.

Help moderators make decisions

Although many members may not read all of your community guidelines, they help moderators do their job. This is because they act as a guiding principle for moderators on how to make better decisions when it comes to monitoring the community and keeping it safe.

Moderators can also refer members to the community management guidelines if they get any pushback on their decisions and want to appeal. This helps ensure all members are held accountable for their actions.

Increase engagement 

Explaining gamification features in your community guidelines lets members know how to earn points or rewards for their positive behavior — increasing your brand’s engagement. At the same time, it allows them to understand how other members are rewarded for their contribution to the community.

8 best practices to write effective community guidelines 

The following best practices will help you write a stellar set of guidelines for your community.

Incorporate your brand’s purpose, mission, and vision

Before you begin writing, be clear about your organization’s mission statement and make sure it aligns with your community guidelines. Additionally, you should incorporate your organization’s purpose and values into your guidelines so members have a consistent experience across your brand.

Write guidelines with your members in mind

As you create your community guidelines, write for your ideal member. What are their needs and goals for engaging with your community? How do you want your members to act? What’s your perfect member’s model behavior? Think of the best-case scenario for your community and clearly break that down. At the same time, your community guidelines should be realistic to ensure expectations are met.

Get clear on what you want your community to accomplish

Decide on your ideal goals for your community. What do you want it to represent? What kind of growth do you want to see within it? 

With that in mind, it’s also essential to reflect on the unique culture of your community to craft guidelines that’ll resonate well enough with your audience so that they excel. 

Be straightforward and direct in your guidelines

Do not add unnecessary words or fluff that’ll confuse your members or cloud their judgment. Instead, offer examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior in your community.

Consider your brand’s tone of voice

Your brand's tone of voice should be recognizable and unique. Is it humorous and lighthearted? Witty? Straight to the point? Your community guidelines should sound the same.

Promote positivity

Incorporate positive messaging into your guidelines by highlighting positive behavior you would like to see in your community. This will create a warm atmosphere that reinforces the importance of kindness and positivity — helping foster a culture of inclusivity and support. 

Include rules about harassment, discrimination, and hate speech

This is self-explanatory, but do not forget to outline your rules about hate speech, discrimination, and harassment in your community guidelines. You should include a section about what your members can expect if they violate these rules.

Have someone else review your guidelines

Ask someone you trust to review your guidelines to ensure you’re not missing any vital information. Remember to proofread and spell-check your guidelines. Ultimately, ensure the guidelines are well-written, fair, and don’t discriminate.

The most common community guidelines include the following elements

Although there are numerous elements to consider, the safest way to create the most valuable community guidelines is to write about the most important topics:

  • Spam: Clearly lay out what constitutes spam. For example, is it just bots posting content or will any form of self-promotion be treated as spam and deleted?
  • Personal attacks: Clearly state that personal attacks won’t be tolerated and what type of message will be considered as an attack.
  • Doxing: This is about protecting the private information of your community members. Doxing is when a user researches someone’s personal information like their name, phone number, or address — and then publishes it online with malicious intent.
  • Illegal activities: Illegal activities can be sharing copyrighted material, intellectual property theft, unauthorized downloads, pirated software, etc. We recommend being proactive and browsing through local laws that can help govern your community.
  • NSFW material: What happens when someone shares NSFW content? It’s important to define what would be considered NSFW — especially when minors take part in your community. NSFW content can be the type of language used, nudity, sexual content, graphic violence, self-harm, and things above PG-13. What will happen when someone posts such content — removal, warning, ban, or getting law enforcement involved if necessary.
  • Racism, sexism, and other discrimination: Write down the repercussions of attacking a group of people.
  • Trolling: This term is not clearly defined — but your guidelines must mention what happens when someone invokes quarrels and distracts members by posting irrelevant, rambling, and disruptive content.
  • Spreading misinformation: This is about stopping the members from posting fake news and ensuring that the contents in the community are authentic.
  • Complaining about topics: A community might have topics and discussions that may not be in line with every member’s personal views. How should the member react and what would be the best way to voice their opinion?
  • Commenting on physical appearance: Will you allow comments on a member’s physical attributes such as style, look, and voice? Depending on the theme of your community this might or might not be acceptable.
  • Multiple accounts and throwaway emails: Would you allow members with multiple accounts? For example, Reddit allows throwaway accounts while Quora is strict on the one-person one-account rule.
  • Cross-posting: If a single post is relevant to two different topics, would you allow it to be posted twice and publish duplicate content?
  • Grammar: When someone posts grammatically wrong content, what would happen to the content? For example, will there be an automated message requesting the member fix the errors or does it not matter?
  • Questions about moderation: If someone wants to dispute the moderation decision, list the steps they need to take. These can include using a contact form or sending a private message. Clearly state how the moderation system works and how moderators make decisions based on the rules in the community.
  • Becoming a mod: If a member wants to become a moderator, what’s the process? In general, members start out by helping other members, protecting the community by flagging inappropriate content, posting high-quality content, and showing that they are genuinely interested in the forum.
  • Upvote: How should the members use the like or upvote features? Add a sentence that advises them to upvote a post when they genuinely want to recommend content.
  • Flag: Cover how members can flag low-quality content or report users who are promoting scams, for example. However, state that they shouldn’t flag content just because they don’t agree with it.
  • Moderator behavior: This section will explain what your members can expect from your moderators, including how they will interact with the community.
  • Inappropriate or “jerk-type” behavior:  This section will outline a range of inappropriate behavior, from light bullying, name-calling, to hate speech and harassment. There is usually an example of typical “jerky” behavior and an explanation of how it will not be tolerated.
  • Zero tolerance for hate speech: Explain your zero-tolerance policy for harassment and hate speech.
  • How to submit a complaint: Your members should know how to contact their moderators if they want to file a complaint. The complaint process should explain when members can expect their complaints to be reviewed and when and how they will be contacted.
  • Impersonation: Let users know they cannot create an account using someone else’s name and likeness to assume their identity.
  • Disciplinary process: Your disciplinary process should be clear and direct in your guidelines. Members should know what to expect if they break the rules. This section will usually include an escalation breakdown that varies per offense.

How to enforce your community guidelines

After creating your community guidelines, the next step is enforcing them thoroughly and regularly. Here’s how you can do that:

Be transparent, fair, and consistent 

Be very clear in your guidelines about consequences for bad behavior and treat every member the same way. This means that no matter how active one member is, or the positive impact they have on the community, if they break a rule — they should face the appropriate consequences.

Have a review process

Create an escalation plan ahead of time. Your members may try to argue their points of view, so it’s best to have a plan for every type of scenario. Make sure your escalation plan is visible and public within your community. Your members should also know who their moderators are and how they will be contacted if they violate the rules.

Make them accessible and easy to find

Ensure your community guidelines can be easily found on your community’s platform and product. Your new members should be immediately directed to your community guidelines as part of the onboarding process.

📖 Learn how easy embedding a forum into your website or app can be with Bettermode.

Regularly update your guidelines

Update your guidelines and review them periodically. You may notice that some rules may not apply over time and need editing. It’s a good idea to create a plan to do a review every quarter or at least twice a year.

Implement software

Bettermode Spam Blocking Feature

Implementing an all-in-one community platform can make enforcing your community guidelines easier. For example, you can:

  • Automatically flag posts that have certain words or profanity
  • Set minimum account ages
  • Block spam
  • Let users know if their message violated your community guidelines

📖 Review our community platform checklist to choose the best software for your brand.

4 community guidelines examples

Let’s take a look at four good community guideline examples for you to draw inspiration from.

Spotify® support community guidelines

Spotify is a digital streaming service that gives users access to millions of music, videos, and podcasts. 

Its community guidelines explain that users should search published threads to check if their question has already been answered or talked about — ensuring the community remains clutter-free.

The guidelines also make it clear to users what’s acceptable to post — and what’s not. This ensures that Spoitfy’s users have a safe place to communicate with other members and solve the issues they are facing. 

Plus, at the bottom of the guidelines, users can find out how to report any content they received or saw that’s inappropriate.

Image Source

Sephora Beauty Insider Community guidelines

Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community is one of the largest online beauty forums. It's a place where beauty lovers can share make-up tips, talk about new products, or get to know each other.

Its community guidelines are very detailed and in-depth. It comes with a list of rules — and one of these rules specifically states no trolling. Letting users know that their posts may be removed and have accounts banned as a consequence. 

Additionally, the guidelines let members know what type of content and interactions they love to see in an organized table format that’s easy to read.

Community guideline example from Sephora
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Schoolhouse.world community guidelines

Schoolhouse.world is a platform that allows people to have small-group tutoring sessions together around the globe.

Its community guidelines are short and sweet. Their purpose is to make sure members feel comfortable and safe while engaging in the community. To do this, the content is separated into three sections: Be Respectful, Be Safe, and Be Kind. These explain what behavior is expected and what isn’t tolerated.

An email address is also provided so members can reach out if they have any concerns or questions about the community.

Community guideline example from SchoolHouse
Bettermode Customer Schoolhouse.world 

Preply’s tutors community rules

Preply is an online language learning platform that’s based in the US. Its classes take place in an online virtual classroom between tutors and students.

It has a dedicated community for its tutors to connect with each other to share their experiences and offer advice. This community comes with guidelines that the tutors must follow. They include a list of rules that request members respect people’s privacy, don’t post spam, talk about politics, and more. 

The community guideline's tone of voice aligns with Preply’s brand — conversational and friendly —  while being serious when necessary. 

Community guideline example from Preply
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The Class community guidelines

The Class is a digital studio that delivers both live and pre-recorded workouts. 

The layout of its community guidelines is simple and won’t take readers long to gain a picture of what’s expected. The most important information is formatted into easily digestible eight bullet points.

The key takeaway from The Class’s guidelines is what they encourage, discourage, and won’t accept from members — helping keep its community standards high. 

Community guidelines example from The Class digital studio
Image Source


Community guidelines promote healthy conversations, positivity, and respect for all members — no matter their sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identity, and national origin. At the same time, they are not a one-and-done type of document and must be constantly reviewed, updated, and enforced.

When writing your set of community guidelines, you need to keep the best practices in mind and include specific elements.

Eventually, the rules will be broken by the members either inadvertently or unknowingly. During those times the community guidelines will prove to be immensely helpful.

Now, it’s time for you to start creating community guidelines! Good luck.

Content marketer

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