Oh, have I had my share! I’ve dealt with people who seem to have a sole purpose of driving me crazy, people who genuinely want the best for the community but would rather gang up on me than talk to me one-on-one, and people who just seem to want to see how far they can push me.
I spoke briefly about this in my session at Blog World, and it’s gotten me thinking even more about it. The bottom line?
Every community will have it’s share of negative people.
It’s what you do with them that counts.
Let me start by saying that not every negative comment you get is one made out of malice. Some people genuinely want to see the community succeed, and they feel they have good ideas that aren’t being heard or taken seriously. It’s really difficult, in this “fast food” lifestyle, to get people to understand that not everything can happen in an instant. Not everything falls upon the Community Manager’s whim, and sometimes there’s much more involved than one might think.
Dealing With The Rally Cry
I’ll start by talking about the person who can’t possibly post a single thing in your community without using mass amounts of profanity, and upon your decision to ban that person (regardless of the steps you’ve taken to try to stop), the community rallies around him/her and tells you what a horrible manager you are.
Here are some of the things I heard from the NN’s when this happened:
- We’re all adults here, and you can’t treat us like 10-year olds in the lunch room.
- So what if he drops f-bombs? If people don’t like it they don’t have to read.
- How can you justify dropping someone with a good overall message in favor of those who don’t even post?
When I tell you they rallied, I mean, they created entire posts in the forum simply to gang up on what they felt was my bad decision. I got no private messages (other than from those who thanked me for the ban), and no one wanted to chat on Skype or the phone. They wanted to have anyone who felt the way they did see it and feel the same.
In this case, there were about half a dozen Negative Neds and Nancys involved. There were also about 20 people who were too afraid to argue them, so chose to privately thank me for removing the offensive poster.
My answers to the above statements?
- Adults don’t need to use f-bombs and other harsh words to convey a good point. 10-year olds do it for the shock value. Behave like an adult, and I won’t treat you like a 10-year old.
- People see a title and click on it, and begin reading. If every other post they open is filled with f-bombs, and they’re not okay with that, they won’t read ANYTHING. They’ll leave.
- I can justify dropping someone who makes other people uncomfortable – to the point where they don’t post out of fear of the reaction of anyone in the community.
Handling The All-Knowing Bully
There are in fact people who simply feel that their job is to stir things up. They ask for some feature, you provide it, they say it sucks. They ask for another one, you don’t provide it, they say you suck. They claim they could do a better job than you. They tell everyone you don’t care because you don’t do what they want. These people may have a tinge of “for the good of the community” behind what they say, but lack the “friendly” gene.
Something I’ve tried in the past is actually going to surprise you: I’ve positioned them as a community leader in some way. Often this has worked, other times, not so much. One person even refused the offer. There was nothing sneaky behind this on my part, mind you. I felt like if I gave them some sort of responsibility, some level of leadership on a specific topic, that it would help them contribute in a more positive way. They would understand that while I value their core idea, that they need to present it in a different way.
Another form of the AKB is the person who replies to a post by someone who’s newer to the community by making them feel stupid. I actually know of this happening a few times, and despite saving a few of those members, have certainly lost a few along the way because of it.
People don’t join a community to be bullied, made to feel stupid or worthless, or get into fights and flame wars. Sure, a healthy argument is a good thing, make no mistake. Opinions are what make this world interesting. But to insult someone over their thoughts or ideas is simply unacceptable. When a member of your community tells you that someone has attacked them in this way, there’s truly only one set of steps to take:
- Apologize to the offended member, and encourage them to continue sharing their ideas for the benefit of the community as a whole.
- Privately message the offensive member, and let them know they will not be allowed to continue belittling members.
- Delete the offensive posts and if it happens again, ban the offensive member. Period.
I’ve made the mistake of not following through on Step 3, and I can’t tell you how much I regret it. All that does is let the bully know they can keep coming back again and again with no repercussions.
You don’t need the bullies, regardless of how active they are. I’m here to tell you, as I’ve seen it first hand, when the bully’s gone, the lurkers come out and your community begins to thrive even more. I know you might not believe it, and the rally criers in your community will fight tooth and nail to make you not believe it, but it’s the truth.
So take this as Lesson #84728 on Community Management: The RIGHT people are infinitely better than LOTS of people. Figure out how to end the negativity coming from any one particular person, or make the decision for them and get them out, for the benefit of your community as a whole.