Community is a lot like an organism, if one part gets infected, it can kill the whole being. So how do you prevent the germs and remedy infection once it’s begun?
Community builders who start from the ground up to through a honeymoon stage where the only people that participate in the community are people who believe in it. They are supportive, they share with their friends, they encourage.
But once a community grows large enough, there are inevitably going to be people who are disillusioned, negative, and just plain nasty to you and your community. As the trusty leader of this community, what can you do when this happens?
Rule #1: Never pick a fight on social media.
Sure, you might’ve seen some of the (mostly fake) fights and arguments between brands that have gone viral, or the funny responses that people tweet when they have a problem with a company. What’s important to point out here is that it’s never the business that wins.
The sheer numbers of the internet means that there will always be someone who can make a wittier comment, a stronger comeback, a point of view that you never thought of. True, most comments and responses online are crap, but it only takes one person to undermine a lot of your community management efforts, so keep it above the boards and don’t take the bait, it’s often what the trolls want.
Rule #2: Separate the person from the group.
It is easier to deal with someone one-on-one, or better yet, offline, than within the community channels. Sometimes this extra attention gives the person a chance to vent, and they can make a clean break if they are really unhappy. If a tweet exchange is getting out of control, take it to email. If a post on your Facebook page is causing controversy, take it down. Just like sometimes limbs must be amputated to ward off infection and death, be willing to cut out the infected part and say good bye to it.
Rule #3: Don’t make up excuses.
Stand by what you are building, understand when people are being mean, and don’t apologize every time someone brings up something negative, especially if they are being confrontational.
Use phrases like “it’s strange that you feel that way, almost everyone has been saying they really enjoyed it” or call them out for their behavior in a polite way like “that comment isn’t helpful for us to create a better experience for you.” Most of the time, if you can explain that their behavior doesn’t help anything, people will realize how counterproductive they are being, and more importantly, that they are wasting their own time.
Rule #4: Apologize only when necessary.
Sometimes things don’t work, or there is a misunderstanding that causes a bad experience. If possible, try to offer a solution. “Oh no! Can you try… that might make it better.” And, if there is no solution, don’t apologize, stand firm. If someone asks for a use case for your product or service that doesn’t exist yet, don’t say “no, sorry, our product doesn’t do that” tell people “no, our product doesn’t do that, but it’s a good idea that I will pass along to the team.”
Especially for web-based products, there are many people who will complain about not being able to figure out the system, or who will make mistakes, get angry about them, and then blame the product. This is clearly not your fault, and you should make every effort to guide that user without apologizing. Being overly apologetic makes you look weak, and you should stand by what you’re managing!
Just kidding, this is a great way to destroy your community (unless you’re really good at it).
Community Manager and Chief BBQ Officer at Paris-based music start up Whyd: helping music lovers to access the wealth of free music available on the web today and tomorrow. Bakes lasagna, writes plays, paints buffalo.