Negativity is contagious, so how do you nip it in the bud?
Because your group is an association composed of members, you probably aren’t hit with too much negativity and troll-like challenges in your online community, but there’s a certain kind of online troublemaker that you have to watch out for. These “bad eggs” can be really destructive to the group dynamic. For instance, say a user finally works up the courage to make a comment for the first time and is immediately met with a negative response; chances are that person won’t ever post again, and may even avoid the online community.
For this reason, it's important to be vigilant in monitoring your community for the emergence of someone like this, and nip this kind of activity in the bud, because the negativity can become a feature of your community, drawing exactly the kind of members you don’t want or need. People tend to pick up the tone of a thread and respond in kind, causing a negative situation to explode out of control.
One way way to avoid this problem is by creating a Code of Conduct that members are required to comply with – and be sure to ask for the input of your members; it’s a good way to get their buy-in and keep them involved in the process. When someone “breaks” one of the rules, you can gently remind them of the community’s Code of Conduct. If they continue to do so, you or the moderators you’ve selected can come down a little harder, letting these troublemakers know that not complying with the Code could get them removed from the community.
The ultimate goal is to create a culture of respect in your community, which will only draw users to the association. Help members understand from the get-go that the association’s community is a place that highly values respect. There are plenty of good examples online of ways you can go with your Code of Conduct, but keep the rules clear and concise. This makes them enforceable – getting specific about what’s not okay on your site makes it less likely that there will be misunderstandings.
Additionally, you can enlist members to be moderators so you're not the one always policing what's going on. It can be more effective and avoids a conflict of interest if a member is reaching out to the troublemaker rather than the association itself. Involving other members of your community in the creation of your Code of Conduct helps others feel a shared sense of responsibility. The boundaries of these moderators’ leadership roles need to be clearly defined, though, to make certain they know just how far they can go with this power. Bring these leaders in at the onset of this process; it will help them understand the parameters of their roles as moderators, while helping the association enforce the Code of Conduct for the benefit of the entire online community.
Written by Christian Britto
Christian is the Operations Manager at rasa.io
We created rasa.io because we fundamentally believe that up to now, the approach most associations take to online community building has been far too narrow. Networking, resource sharing, and Q/A are just a part of the online community experience, so we created a platform the puts member engagement where it should be - at the heart of your association’s community.