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As community managers, we really do want everyone to peacefully co-exist. However, this can’t always be the case. In fact, it is is rarely the case. As in life, not everyone in a community, real or virtual will get along. That’s just the way it is.

As the leader, charged with growing the community and helping to cultivate relationships, you also have to know how to step in and take action. Sometimes that action means banning members from the community. It’s not something you want to do often by any means, but you do need to know when there is simply no other choice.

Here are seven situations that could lend themselves to banning visitors:

  1. They continually push the limits and ignore your guidelines or Terms of Service
  2. They are being openly defiant as a means of getting attention.
  3. They are harassing other members on a continual basis with no end in sight.
  4. They live to post inappropriate links and not much else.
  5. They are recruiting others to join a destructive cause within your community.
  6. Everything they post is hostile and an effort to create chaos
  7. They are disrespecting or attacking you publicly and making the issue personal.

I am not indicating that each of these situations should result in a banning. I’ve had every single instance occur in my community and I was sometimes able to communicate with the person and reverse the situation, which ultimately is ideal for both sides.

But I’ve also been in situations that were utterly hopeless, and banning was the only way.

What unique situations have occurred in your community that made “baning” the only option?

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Some alarming news out of Maui this week.

Alarming to me that is.

Anyone who has read this blog on a regular basis or some of the comments I post on various journalism, and social media focused blogs, knows that I am an advocate of user-generated content, particularly allowing comments on news stories.

So, when I learned about the Maui News killing comments all because of, (get this) ABUSE I saw it as a huge loss and felt extremely disappointed. I still am, and it’s days later.

Of course there’s abuse!!! This is the internet, and we all know that the cloak of anonymity can bring out the worst in people. It’s all laid out in detail in this MSNBC.com story.

But abuse can be managed. This is not that difficult. The answer as I’ve said time and time again, is to hire moderators. This can be done and done well, without stifling the conversation. Moderation is not the end of the world. It can be the beginning of a new world where a news site can actually have civil discourse generated by users, connected to their content.

Set guidelines, but be fair. Don’t give up altogether.

Suggesting that internet users opt for sending in letters to the editor as opposed to leaving a real-time comment is pretty, well…old media.

Engage your community. Give them a voice.

But set limits. Make “civil discourse” the goal and define what that means. If you weed out the crap while being fair and consistent, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Just don’t give up.
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If there’s one thing members of your online community want from you, it’s feedback. Positive feedback, or not-so positive feedback, they want to hear from you.

As in most group settings, the squeaky wheels tend to get most of the attention, but if this is where you are focusing your efforts, it’s time to stop. Yes, you have to deal with troublemakers to keep the community in tip-top shape, but you can’t neglect your top posters, continuous content creators and keepers of the community.

If it sounds like a huge task, that’s because it is. It’s an important one too and should be done on a daily basis. It isn’t something you have to spend hours doing, but it’s wise to carve out at least 30 minutes of your day to recognize the members who keep the community afloat, and spend a good portion of their time on your site.

So how can you do this effectively and efficiently? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Comment on blogs or forums and be sure to compliment the author publicly. (“This is a great conversation piece. Good topic.”)
  2. Make a helpful suggestion. This indicates that you value their content. (“Great post. You might want to add a link to your last blog since it’s related.”)
  3. Make a direct request. (Loved the pictures from your garden. When can we expect to see more?”)
  4. Ask a question about their content. (That recipe looks awesome, was it passed down to you?”)
  5. Suggest a blog topic. (I see you’re passionate about drunk driving, you should consider writing a blog.”)
  6. Ask for their opinion based on what you know about them. ( “I’m heading out your way this weekend, any good barbecue spots in Sanford?”)
  7. Encourage communication with other community members. (“Johnny23 is looking for tax advice, aren’t you an accountant? Maybe you can help”)
  8. Make a promise, and keep it. (If you do decide to take more pictures let me know and I’ll highlight them on the home page.”)
  9. Tell them you miss them. (“Haven’t seen you in a while, I hope everything is okay. We miss your humor.”)
  10. Send a personal e-mail.. (Hey, you were one of our top posters last week. Just want you to know how much I appreciate your time. Keep it up!”)

Easy enough? Why not get started today? Pick a number between 10 and 20 and decide to issue that many or more compliments to your users on a daily basis. It will show them you care and that you value their time. It will pay off as they become more loyal and you’ll ultimately see the fruits of your labor.
Do you have any helpful hints on connecting with users? Feel free to share.

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After taking MAJOR HEAT from bloggers and other news organizations, for twittering the funeral of a 3-year-old (myself included) the Rocky Mountain News has decided to cease and desist, at least for now. Editors had apparently planned to have a reporter twitter a second funeral, but a staffer spoke up and the decision was reversed, according to this article.

I firmly believe that there are innumerable ways to engage users and as a community manager, I am game for trying almost anything.

But as I said before, not everything is meant to be twittered.

That is the question I was asked by my boss today.

“I’d love to,” I say enthusiastically and practically giddy. “Will they understand me?”

“If not, we’ll get an interpreter.”

“Sold.”

So, I will be speaking to a group of bloggers from Egypt next week, thanks to a relationship my boss has with the UNC School of Journalism. He once worked there and the dean reached out to him for this particular endeavor.

The point? I’m blogging about this because it underscores my passion for what I do. I thoroughly enjoy my line of work and talking about it excites me. I’m able to get others excited about social media and there are many bloggers who do the same for me on a daily basis. If you’re reading this, you’re likely one of them. Thank you.

Are the ups and downs of managing user-generated content, managing online communities and dealing with the unknown a force to be reckoned with. Absolutely. Just read my recent post about community-management related stress. (Hmmm, did I just coin a new acronym? CMRS disorder?)

But these ups and downs also build character I’m learning. And those of us doing this today will be a great help to those of us doing it tomorrow.

So, Egyptian bloggers prepare for an earful.

I am all about breaking new ground with social media and finding new ways to embrace the concept. I’ve been known to sing it from the mountain tops, particularly when it comes to traditional news media.

I feel that news organizations need to find new ways to reach their readers/viewers/users and prove their worth in the space. Many are doing it and that excites me. I am cheering them on and watching everyone I can. I’m proud to be part of an organization that’s doing it and leading the charge.

That said, I was a bit miffed when I read about a news organization twittering the funeral of a 3-year-old.

Twitter a hurricane? YES.

Twitter a court case? YES! Ron Sylvester of The Witchita Eagle and Kansas.com does a heck of job with that.

But a funeral of a 3-year-old who was killed at an ice cream store?

Seems a bit insensitive to me. Others clearly agree.

Michael Roberts: “After all, Twittering a child’s funeral is a mission more doomed than Jimmy Carter’s attempt to rescue those hostages from Iran back in the day. The results are self-satirizing in the most morbid, inappropriate way possible.”

Cara Degette: “Whatever their rationale, it’s unconceivable. Utterly, and unforgivingly, unconceivable.”

On this one, I would have to agree. What are your thoughts?

You can view all updates here, on the Rocky Mountain News’ website.

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Let’s be honest.

Many online communities are filled with people who are not who they claim to be. Charlatans, masters of disguise, self-proclaimed trolls and would-be stalkers can hide behind a cloak of anonymity, never to be revealed.

But on the flip side, there are also people who hide nothing. They are comfortable in their skin offline and online. They’re honest, readily share their opinions, enjoy a good debate and make friends along the way. In other words, they’re genuine. They’re real.

Having managed the online community, GOLO since its inception, I have come to know a whole lot of people. They have connected with me as I have with them, eventhough I have no idea “who” they really are.

One member showed up at the station unannounced last December and brought me three Christmas CD’s. Another sent me a box of vegetables from her garden a few months back. I’ve also received cards and lunch invitations and even access to coveted company perks, none of which I’ve accepted, of course. I also get a slew of hate mail, but that’s par for the course.

Most recently, I received a card in the mail adorned with an image of the confederate flag. I heard about it before it ever reached my office. Our in-house mail deliverer informed me last week that he’d seen a piece of mail addressed to me with the name “Old Rebel” on it and that I should be careful.

The woman who brought it to my office gave me an equally concerned look when she handed it to me, and I in turn sat it down on my desk thinking “Not today.”

When I finally decided to open it, fearing the worst, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a thank-you card. The sender had recently received a mousepad from me in the mail, and he wanted to acknowledge it.

I’d recently asked ten users for their home address so I could reward them for being “top posters” on the site and he was one of them.

He simply wanted to say “thank you.”

So what’s the lesson here? The lesson is that I too am learning things about people and that even I can judge their intentions base on my preconceived notions.

The confederate flag is a symbol of the south to him. And I know from his posts and image galleries that he loves the area and will likely live here until he draws his final breath.

As a black woman from the north, it means and has always meant something different to me.

But I can’t help but understand that he was sharing who he really is, and meant me no harm. It’s quite the opposite. His sincerity was apparent.

So what did I do? I went directly to his profile page, posted a hearty thank-you of my own, and told him that he had made my day.

Am I now a fan of this flag? No. But I just may reevaluate its significance to some and do a little research of my own.

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I’ve always known on-the-job stress.

As an assignment manager, I worried about missing a big story or crucial interview, sending the news crew to the wrong location and various other scenarios that involved me ending up in the news directors office for singlehandedly destroying the ratings and making us look like losers on the air. It rarely happened, but the stress existed just the same. When Governor Lawton Chiles died on my watch when I worked at WFLA in Tampa, I stressed about getting it on the air first. It was a constant state of wanting to be first, and best. The sense of urgency was constant. No stress there, right?

As a news and special projects producer, I worried that my words weren’t powerful enough, my intro was too weak or I lacked the great video needed to keep the viewers interest. It was stressful to know that the exclusive interview it took two months to land could bail at the last minute leaving little if any time recover.

While managing media partnerships In the newspaper industry, the worries were also constant. Different, but constant: Will our news partners air our content, will we collaborate successfully, and will I ever get these print reporters to understand that multimedia reporting is not an option but a requirement?

Well, now I’m dealing with user-generated content and the game has changed tremendously. I’m managing content from people I cannot control in any capacity. They are nothing more than a screen name and an e-mail address. Some are even less. I don’t know their intentions or whether or not they’re who they say they are. Quite honestly, I’m not certain about much of anything in this particular space.

New stresses consists of relentless trollers intent on wreaking havoc on the community and calling me out in public blogs and making crude references to my ability (or inability, in their anonymous eyes) to do my job by faceless names who really have no real idea what my job entails.

I recently found a kindred spirit in a post by blogger Jeremiah Owyang: Social Punishment: The Bozo Feature .

In the comments area, I found Marc Meyer who wrote that he’d actually received a death threat from a user. There is a level of insanity in that but it is real. Someone took his role as a community manager seriously enough to wish him dead. Sad, but true.

A member of my community indicated in an e-mail to my boss recently that my moderating policies have caused her “undue emotional stress.” Someone else warned that he would continue to bring a flurry of problems through his posts and purposely disrupt and even attempt to ruin the community if I did not completely remove another member from the community. And just yesterday someone commented that I must be “sexually repressed” because their blog posts riddled with sexual innuendo and inappropriate content had been removed.

I am not making this up.

Are these things worthy of stress? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s important to note that this kind of thing can really get to a person. So, if you’re a community manager dealing with any of these issues and wish to start a support group, I’m in!

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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