How to Undo Online Community Damage
You’re going to be seen as an ineffective online community manager if your community has become a place where the members snipe at one another and don’t respect you or your rules. As your job is a very public one, you can’t afford that hit to your reputation.
If you let a situation get out of hand once, it’s likely to happen again. When the damage is already done, it’s difficult to come in and keep the peace after the fact. It’s sort of like a sheriff coming in to run a town of outlaws.
Still, you can take steps to prevent a bad situation from getting more out of hand, while enforcing the policies and guidelines needed to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.
Keep your damage control low-key. When you announce that you’re cleaning up the community after the community has been running amok, you only open the door for hecklers and nay-sayers who may tell you that you’re censoring their free speech. (You’re not.)
Also, determine whether to close comments to a discussion. If you do so, do it without fanfare. If community members complain and the complaints are not something you can handle privately, explain to all how the conversation violates your comment policy, and you closed it down in order to prevent it from escalating further out of control.
Don’t allow for arguments as there are certain times when you have to wear your authority hat. You may even need to close the comments on your any announcements (about closing comments) if you don’t think it will go over well. Be honest but not so brutally honest that folks take offense.
It may also be time to reintroduce everyone to your comment policies and community guidelines. First, see whether your guidelines need an update and make any necessary changes. Second, invite your community to read over the guidelines. They don’t need scoldings or smackdowns, as this is very insulting for adults. Simply point them in the right direction.
With the offending discussion topic closed for business and re-established community guidelines in place, you’re now in a better position to keep the peace in the future.