Prevent Negativity for a Successful Online Community - dummies

Prevent Negativity for a Successful Online Community

By Deborah Ng

A positive online community reflects well on the brand and is more likely to create good buzz in the marketplace for your products and services. On the other hand, negativity keeps people away. Active moderation is key to preventing a negative community environment and avoiding the consequences thereof.

Prevent online community negativity

Fortunately for you and your community, having a positive community from the start is a lot easier than trying to moderate a community that’s gone out of control. Most community members don’t want to party in a cesspool. Most of them are respectful and positive and do what they can to keep the peace. Here are some ways you can make it clear from the beginning what will and won’t be tolerated:

  • Set clear guidelines.

  • Post your community guidelines and comment policy in a prominent location and refer members to those documents as often as necessary.

  • Contact uncooperative members via private message, phone, or e-mail to discuss the effect of their negativity on the community.

  • Simply don’t allow negative or abusive behavior. Stand firm about what is and what isn’t allowed in your community.

Consequences of negativity in the online community

Plenty of online communities have very few moderators, if any, and those who own or manage the communities really don’t care if members use obscenities or fight all the time. Want to know what happens?

First, it’s hard to have a decent conversation. In an unmoderated or poorly moderated community, the members are more interested in picking a fight than in having an actual discussion. Serious members become frustrated by their inability to have a conversation without trolling or attacks.

Further, some members go a little too far. When you don’t set limits, some members like to see how far they can go before you finally say “Enough!” Sometimes, abuse is so rampant that the community’s host pulls the plug.

Finally, participating in the community isn’t enjoyable. Community management ensures a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Many people who spout negativity are testing the limits: Sometimes it’s not what’s said but how much one can get away with. If you don’t set clear guidelines and draw the line at profanity, abuse, and personal attacks, you can lose members and gain a reputation for letting your community run amok. This reputation reflects poorly on your brand, and your community becomes a haven for trolls and spammers.

The bottom line is that negativity keeps people away. If your brand or business wants to foster a positive community, one that will reflect better on the brand and perhaps drive some sales and create good buzz around your products or services, you don’t need the kind of negativity an unmoderated community provides.

Make no mistake — if you allow a single negative comment, more will follow. Negativity is enticing. It attracts copycats and me too-ers. It sucks some people in and makes them want to try it, too, until it escalates out of control. Folks are going to snark back, and soon you have anarchy.

Keeping the peace is hard once it’s out of control because members won’t take you seriously anymore. They’ll wonder why you’re trying to change the rules now, after letting it go on for so long.