Consider this story published in The Guardian a few weeks ago.
Screenshots from a private staff community were used to support a national story to attack the company.
A private community isn’t really private at all – it’s just exclusive.
A disgruntled member, cunning hacker, or a curious relative with access to any member’s phone can quickly put messages into the spotlight.
Which is why you never say anything in a private group which would be embarrassing in the public sphere.
Last year, we worked with one community manager who agreed with member statements in an MVP group that their CEO is a clueless idiot.
This might seem like a shortcut to bond with your members, but it does irreparable harm.
Not only can anyone privy to the conversation cause real damage to your career, but it doesn’t help your company or your community efforts if members think your company is being badly led.
The moment you take your members’ side against your employers you have a big problem.
Any private group you join should have a specific purpose and you should enforce that purpose.
Don’t allow discussions privately which you wouldn’t allow publicly (and definitely don’t join in).
If members have complaints, engage with them to resolve them.
If they engage in discussions outside of the groups’ purpose, ask them to take it elsewhere.