The Patrick Swayze Rules of Community Management

What could Patrick Swayze possibly have to do with online community management?

I was having a discussion yesterday with a good friend  who also happens to be a community manager for a popular online forum. She was expressing her frustration with one of the community members who likes to stir up the crowd. He uses profanity despite the “no profanity” rule and if his posts are edited or deleted, cries censorship and baits her with profanity a in almost every post. I told her to try the Patrick Swayze rules of community management.

In Roadhouse, Swayze was the ultimate community manager.

1. “Be nice”

Very few forums thrive with constant negativity. When community management joins in a free for all of nastiness, there’s absolutely no hope for a community’s success. No one wants to hang out in a negative playground where mud is being slung or everyone is tit for tat. If someone in your community is baiting you or the rest of the members, be nice. This serves two purposes:

  1. It sets the tone for the community- Most people join a community to share on a like-minded topic. However, no one is comfortable amid constant nitpicking, griping, swearing and fighting just for the sake of picking a fight. When management is positive but makes it clear negativity won’t be tolerated, the members feel more comfortable and aren’t afraid to have discussions complete with respectful disagreement.
  2. It shows the other person you’re not taking the bait – There are people who thrive on drama. All they want is to start trouble and they’ll hone in on the easiest target. Sometimes it’s a community manager and sometimes it’s someone who is afraid to make waves. If you engage, he has his drama. If you don’t give him the satisfaction, he’ll have to go somewhere else for his fix.

Also, if someone isn’t following a forum’s rules, it’s not censorship to ask him not to curse or to ask him to abide by the guidelines, especially if it’s a private forum. Governments censor, online community managers keep the peace.

2. “Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

I’m a big fan of taking things private. If someone is breaking the rules, send him an email or DM respectfully requesting he revisit your comment policy. If he publicly complains, again respond in a pleasant manner via DM. If he starts stirring up the troops, it’s OK to say in the thread you will be happy to talk with him in private, but don’t give in to his invitation for a throw down. Whatever you do, don’t engage, whether in public or private. Once a fight gets going, it’ll happen in other threads and discussion topics and you’ll lose control. Always take it outside.

3. “Be nice until it’s time to not be nice”

Sometimes being nice and taking it private don’t work. Sometimes a person will continue baiting and continue breaking the rules and you have no choice but to show him to the door. It can be a temporary banning or it can something more permanent. However, you can’t risk losing an entire community because one person absolutely refuses to abide by the guidelines.

4. “Nobody ever wins in a fight”

When you engage in negativity it causes others to lose respect for you as the community manager. They’re counting on you for guidance, and to also ensure them a positive place to interact. Fighting and contributing to negativity will only cause you to look bad. Follow the “be nice” rules and don’t engage and you’ll win the respect of your community.

5. “No one puts baby in a corner”

Ok, just kidding, I got nothing with that one. How about…

5. “It’s a job, it’s nothing personal”

So that guy? The one who is continuing to bait you? He’s not doing it because he’s harboring some sort of sick grudge against you. Heck, he hardly even knows you. He’s doing it because he sees you as a target, it’s nothing personal. Likewise, when you have to reprimand someone, take it private or evan ban someone, it has nothing to do with them personally. It’s your job to provide a respectful, engaging, peaceful atmosphere.

Do you know why you don’t see negativity in many popular online communities? Because of stellar community management. The folks overseeing things have firm rules in place regarding interaction and, if someone is breaking the rules, they take care of it swiftly — usually in private. Chances are, they have to put up with some colorful people as well. That you never see that means they’re very good at their jobs.  Remember, be nice….until it’s time to not be nice.

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