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How to Deal with a Negative Situation within an Online Community

Not all negativity is worthy of a public address. Many times, situations arise from misunderstandings during online discussions or community events. The situation may not even have anything to do with you or your brand, but because it happened within your community, it’s up to you to iron things out. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Assess the situation.

    Don’t jump to conclusions and don’t dive in blind. Follow the trail of events. Find out who all the players are and read all the comments, feedback, and discussions relating to the event.

  2. Determine whether the situation should be handled publicly or taken private.

    If the negativity involves only one or two people, it may be easiest to settle matters during a conference call or Skype chat. If the issue has become a community free-for-all, a public discussion may be necessary.

  3. Never take sides.

    Although you may be able to identify a clear instigator or scapegoat, taking sides only escalates the situation.

  4. Listen.

    Hear all sides of the story, from the major players to eyewitnesses. Try to assess who is being truthful and who is simply backing up a friend.

  5. Ask questions.

    You may know all the answers from watching the situation unfold, but ask questions anyway. Your community wants to know that you care.

  6. Take action.

    The action may be an apology on your part; an apology on someone else’s part; a new rule; or a perk such as a discount, freebie, or free membership offered to an offended member. Determine how to make things right and take the appropriate action.

  7. Move on.

    When the situation has been handled and everyone is satisfied, move on. Don’t dwell on it or discuss it inappropriately with other members of the community.

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