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How should we handle negative comments and hostile behaviour on our site?

When organizations jump into social media, one of the first questions that comes up is how to handle negative or hostile comments. Open your site up to public contributions and who knows what will appear: torrents of customer complaints, bitter personal rants, pornographic images.

For some organizations working on polarizing issues or with sensitive stakeholders, these concerns need to be paramount. In most cases, the risk of negative feedback pales in comparison to a much more likely -- and much more problematic -- phenomenon: the absence or paucity of feedback, engagement and participation.

And many of the techniques that are most effective in protecting against negativity also reduce levels of participation. Moderate content, hold it for approval, or shut down criticism, and you end up looking like a stage managed community with little room for authentic conversation.

That's why we typically advise establishing the minimum level of intervention needed to address problem behaviour. Set up guidelines that encourage positive use, model constructive contribution, and make sure you have a plan in your back pocket in case trouble does arise. But don't underestimate your community: the most effective way to manage negative participation is to let your enthusiastic participants tackle it themselves -- often drowning it out.

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Andrea says

March 9, 2009 - 10:42am

There is an interesting article in the book Autonomous Media about the politics of open publishing. See:


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