Tag Archives: Trolls

ARTICLE: Why Community Managers Can’t Ignore Negativity

Kommein March 1, 2013
by Deb Ng


This is a good article–solid–but I think just a little bit idealistic. Maybe I’m a slightly cynical today because I wonder just how hard Ms. Ng has ever been hammered by negativity as a CM?

Read Ms. Ng’s article first. Then come back to my response, below:

“Positives Regarding Negativity”

“Every complaint is an opportunity to improve” I would re-phrase that to every legitimate complaint is an opportunity to improve. Absolutely! Complaints are a gift. However, on occasion you come across a Cranky Person  who you know is there only to cause trouble. For instance, let’s say you run a Facebook page for a meat butcher who sells fantastic steaks. You can see by looking at his profile that Cranky Person has been a rabid vegetarian for the past 30 years. The time you spend on Cranky Person takes time away from the people who want to purchase your steaks. What is the best use of your time?

“Even the most disgruntled person can become an advocate” I totally agree, and this kind of conversion can be like crack to a good CM–I know it’s a high that I’m addicted to. But this only happens if you can be truthful, authentic, and find common ground. And takes time away from the people who are already convinced to purchase your steaks. What is the best use of your time?

“You can become a case study on how to do things right” No. Deal with negativity because you have passion and love for your brand, not because you hope to gain fame.

“What Happens When You Ignore Even the Smallest Situations”

“The situation doesn’t go away” Well, actually it might. The best of all possible worlds is when Cranky Person spews his hate and members of the community come forward to defend your brand. Now that’s brand loyalty at it’s finest! Also consider, by responding to the hater, do you validate the hater’s position?

“Other people notice” Not always, it depends on the platform and how legitimate the complaint is. Consider also that by responding to Cranky Person you run the risk of bringing attention to the conversation which causes people who might not have noticed to notice.

“Other people join in” I totally agree with what Ms. Ng wrote here–If Cranky Person has friends, it’s likely that they will join in and suddenly you’re a snowball rolling down hill. As the CM you MUST find the right way to nip the negativity as close to in the bud as possible.

“People you work with notice” OK, just want to point out that the people you work with might be the ones RESPONSIBLE for creating the negative situation in the first place. They might also be the ones telling you to ignore the situation. Sometimes you’ve got to be prepared to fight for what’s right–choose your battles wisely.

“Everyone Is Worthy Of A Response”

Yep. I agree that everyone is worthy of a response. Usually an acknowledgement of the complaint and an apology can help the situation. Or you can agree to disagree.

But on rare occasions and under the right conditions, there may be a time when the only response is to ban their ass from your brand’s Facebook page. There. I said it. I’ll say it again. Ban their ass.

Let’s use my earlier example: You run a Facebook page for a company that sells steaks. You’ve been able to see Cranky Person’s profile (and said thank you for their lack of privacy settings), so you know that this vegetarian will be happy with nothing less than driving your steak-selling company into bankruptcy. You’ve taken the precaution of clearly outlining commenting guidelines for the page, and the hatred coming from Cranky Person violates those guidelines. Protect your brand and your loyal customers (who enjoy eating steak) and ban Cranky Person from your page.

CAUTION: This is an extreme measure. Make the decision without emotion and with much thought and deliberation. This is something you keep in your back pocket just in case.

“What Can You Do Besides Ignore”

“Assess the situation” Absolutely! Is this a legitimate customer and is there any possible truth in what they’re saying? Don’t let their snarkiness stand in the way of making your business better. Complaints are a gift.

“Determine a cause of action” (I wonder if she meant to write “course of action?”) I agree–some complaints are valid to the person and to no one else and nothing can be done to remedy the problem. Certainly we should respond and acknowledge what’s being said.

“Respond” Yes. But a response is not always a written comment by you. The best response might be to protect your brand and remove that negativity from your community.

Humor can be a great way to defuse snark, as long as the humor is appropriate. Also a non-emotional response often works better–especially if Cranky Person is being overly melodramatic. If you have a phone center, sometimes moving the negativity offline is best of all.

You cannot be arbitrary in how you manage a community. Each situation is unique. Talking through differences, negotiating a settlement that turns around a complaint is always a good result. Negativity must have a response–but the best response might be to NOT engage with the hater. Sometimes the best response is letting your community engage to change the hater’s POV.

But also consider the possibility of eliminating the hater from the community. This is an extreme CM super power. Use it wisely, Grasshopper.