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How to Recognize Negativity on Your Online Community

Negativity keeps people away. If your brand or business wants to foster a positive online community — one that reflects well on the brand and perhaps drives some sales and creates good buzz around its products or services — you don’t need the kind of negativity that an unmoderated community provides.

It’s important to understand what a negative comment actually is. Some people consider disagreement to be negativity, though that’s not the case at all; if debate is respectful, it’s absolutely allowed. What you need to look out for is behavior that makes people feel bad and brings down the overall mood of the community, such as the following:

  • Swearing: Whether or not you allow swearing or vulgarity is up to you. However, it’s important to consider the context and usage. It’s one thing to use a choice word to illustrate a point, but it’s a whole other ballgame to direct profanity at other members or the brand. Consider how allowing these words would reflect on your place of business. What would advertisers and clients think, for example?

  • Typing in all caps: Writing in all caps is considered to be yelling online. When a member uses all caps, even if his motives are completely innocent, others take the bait, and arguments ensue. Prevent confrontations and misunderstandings by asking all-caps typists to refrain.

  • Launching personal attacks: Debating points, policies, ideas, and discussion topics leads to lively conversation. Name-calling, finger-pointing, and character assassinations don’t add anything to the discussion and cause bad feelings.

  • Posting another member’s personal information: The amount or type of information that community members want to share is entirely up to them. Most people know better than to post personal details, such as phone numbers, addresses, and places of employment, for all to see, because revealing these details can lead to bad situations.

    Bad situations can get even worse when members post other members’ personal information. They do this for a variety of unsavory reasons, and it’s always best to moderate this type of activity, especially out of respect for the victims of this type of abuse.

  • Constant baiting: There are always community members who live for drama. You don’t hear from them much during productive discussions, but when the claws come out, they’re there. It’s not enough for them to stay in the background, either. They drop leading comments for the sole purpose of sucking others into an argument.

    Half the time this sort of behavior isn’t noticed by management, but it frustrates the heck out of community members. Take care to notice who your problem children are and take whatever necessary steps possible to keep them in line. If the same people are front and center during community arguments, it’s a good bet they’re there for the drama.

  • Sniping and snark: Not everyone in your community is going to get along. It doesn’t take long to realize the personality clashes. Many times, people who don’t usually agree have to get their barbs in. They snipe and snark at each other hoping to insult or provoke an argument. Sometimes it’s good to remind people who don’t get along of the comment policies.

  • Pile-ons: Twenty against one isn’t a fair fight. This goes way beyond disagreement. A pile-on is what happens when a clique stands together against one person to shoot down an argument or idea. It’s rarely ever done in a respectful manner.

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