Potentially Negative Online Community Members - dummies

Potentially Negative Online Community Members

By Deborah Ng

Possibly one of the most difficult tasks of an online community manager is dealing with negative personalities. Being able to spot them early on can help prevent a bad or uncontrollable situation.

Beware the community bully, according to Lara Kulpa, community manager for Blogworld & New Media Expo. If not kept in check, negative people sometimes morph into a stronger personality type — the community bully — and the target isn’t only members, but also the community manager.

“They try to make it difficult for you,” Kulpa says, “because while they often provide loads of good content, they behave like they’re superior or entitled over other members and tend to drive people away.” Kulpa adds that if you don’t deal with them swiftly, the community bullies take over, and soon, the community is made up only of members of their own clique.

You may not be happy about getting to know some negative personality types, but the more you find out about them, the better equipped you are when it comes to handling each different situation. Keep a look out for these common negative personality types; they all have the potential to cause discontent within your community:

  • The Malcontent: This community type goes way beyond a bit of crankiness. The Malcontent finds fault with everything, especially with the way that the community is run. He complains about everything from the hosting to management and never has anything positive to say. His comments often lead to arguments within the community because the regulars get fed up with his constant complaining.

  • The Heckler: Though the Heckler doesn’t always behave in a negative manner, her antics can be equally as unfavorable as the Malcontent. She doesn’t criticize so much as question everything that everyone talks about. She’s not even there to disagree; mostly, she’s there to show her own superiority or to make others look bad.

  • The Rabble Rouser: Beware the Rabble Rouser because he’s the one who can turn a community against its management. Perhaps he doesn’t like some of the community rules.

    Instead of discussing it privately or even in a quiet, respectful manner, the Rabble Rouser gets up on his podium and incites the community to riot. He knows that there are better ways to go about things, but he’s not interested in being subtle.

  • The Troll: The anonymity of the Internet gives the Troll the keyboard courage to be cruel to other members. She doesn’t use her own name as she leaves mean, profane, and abusive comments. The good news is that although trolls cause arguments and even stress within the community, the troll’s lifecycle isn’t a long one as most community managers ban them soon after they join the community.

Negativity never has to escalate. You have ways of dealing with bullies and abusive members effectively without turning your community into a hotbed of negativity. Take swift action in the beginning, and you’ll earn the respect of your community.

When you’re identifying and dealing with the different personality types in your community, keep in mind most members are there because they believe in and support the community. Keeping the atmosphere positive and upbeat will ensure a happy, productive online network of friends, fans, and followers.