Wait, What Did I Just Agree To? 8 Ways to Update (and Enforce) Your Terms and Conditions

By Jenny Morse posted Oct 13, 2015 06:55 PM


Let me set a scene that may or may not look familiar to you. Your wonderful, beautiful, source of life (seriously, what would we do without it?) iPhone or Android is going through a new software update. The "Terms and Conditions" screen pops up with all sorts of words that don't make all that much sense to you. You quickly hit "I Accept" and let your phone go through the motions of all of the new exciting changes of version 112.2. Maybe there's a thought that crosses your mind about what you actually accepted, but in all honesty, whoever reads those things, right? 

For better or worse, we live in a society that doesn't read the fine print. Unfortunately, that likely includes our community's Terms and Conditions/Rules and Etiquette/Community Guidelines. So what happens if members start to violate these rules? Here's a list of ideas and resources that will hopefully help in the event your members may need a friendly reminder of your community's expectations.

  1. Implement a three strikes and you’re out policy  as outlined by Jill Straniero, Digital Collaboration Manager at ASHA and Laura Brook with Engaging Communities Consulting.
  2. As a part of or separate from the three strikes policy, call members who have violated the Terms and Conditions and gently remind them of the agreement and discuss the appropriate avenue for channeling their feedback or rephrasing for their original question.
  3. If a member has violated a rule, send out an announcement to the entire community reminding them of the guidelines. Laura Brook (the 11th and final post on this thread)  outlined the process  she takes, including the email language she sends to the entire community as an announcement.
  4. If there are consistent offenders, put them on full moderation. Our own Community Manager, Lindsay Starke, outlined directions for using your moderation tools in a discussion earlier this year.
  5. Send messaging to all members (or your champions) encouraging those who see violations of the terms and conditions to self-moderate. This will serve the purpose of letting the member feel as if they have some sort of control and will act as a deterrent to violate the rule. A few of our clients use the approach of  self-moderationsuch as Francine Asche, former Online Community Manager for the Society for Neuroscience (second post down).
  6. If there is a particular rule or guideline members seem to be struggling with, create a separate terms and conditions for those members to really drive that rule home. Using the common example of self-promotion, it may be worth considering developing a more fine-tuned terms and conditions for those in the supplier market and push out to that demographic with one of these two methods.  
  7. If you have an issue with promotion, create a separate community specifically for offering products or services. That way, members who are looking for services can proactively reach out to those providing resources. You could then update your Rules and Etiquette document to direct people to this section. Melissa Dennis, Director of Technology at GBBR has  implemented a similar community  to great success. 
  8. Similarly to #7, if you have an issue with members directly advertising to other members, it may be worth considering taking out the portion of your guidelines that points vendors to contacting members directly.  Autumn Wolfer, Director of Marketing at Financial Managers Society, ran into the issue with of one of their board members being put off by using the community because vendors contacted them privately.

These are just a few suggestions*- I'd love to hear your strategies for encouraging the adoption and enforcement of your terms and conditions! 

 *I highly encourage you run any and all changes to your Terms and Conditions by your legal counsel.