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Member dominating Facebook page: What would you do?

July 16, 2011

A while back, a fellow community manager sent me this query.

Lately 2 people having been posting on our Facebook page (for people with cancer), claiming that their product cures cancer. They have started threads about it, they’ve replied on unrelated threads, telling the community members to look into their product because it’s the cure, etc.

We’ve spent hours forming responses to them — not arguing with them but stating that to date there is no scientific evidence supporting their claims. We’ve also invited them to submit a grant proposal for research funding. As yet, we’ve decided not to remove or block their posts. If we delete them, it feeds into their idea that the ‘cancer industry’ is hiding the cure. If we block them, they will probably just come back as others. What should we do?

Reading the community manager’s responses, I felt her actions were spot on. She listened and actively monitored. Her posts

  • were respectful and did not flame the discussion
  • gave the 2 people options to legitimize their claims
  • did not discredit their right to their opinion
  • helped correct misconceptions for other readers

Most importantly, she allowed other members to police the community. The last post claiming the cure for cancer included 29 comments from other members, illustrating their intelligence and grace. Ultimately the community organically shut down the 2 people and they stopped posting.

What about using pro-active tactics to increase activity? For example:

  • Reach out to key people (ambassadors) in your community through private messages and ask them to post about things not related to curing cancer. When reaching out, give them something specific to do.
  • Start a fun campaign to boost participation from others like “Send us a picture of your silliest head covering: hat, wig, scarf” or “Who do you want to thank? Is there someone who helped you during your cancer journey that you would like to thank and didn’t have a chance?”
  • If readers complain about these 2 people, consider a campaign to vote them off the island. A riskier approach admittedly, but members will appreciate the opportunity to do something collectively if 2 people dominate and spoil the community.

@RichMillington, well-known online community consultant, offers this advice in a recent post Remove Members Quickly. “You’re not running a country, you’re running a community. If a member isn’t a good fit for the community, remove them. It’s your community, you need to protect it.”

As a community manager, what would you do? As a member of the community, what would you want the community manager to do?

See related post by @AnnFuller on Suicide & facebook: What would you do? Join us for #hcsmca July 20th at 1pm ET to discuss.
14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2011 10:50 pm

    I think a commenting policy could also help, but comment moderation is a sticky subject. Could be seen as censorship or as tailoring the discourse. Just blogged about this actually.

    Also, from reading comments and through getting comments on my own blog, I have found that loyal, sensible commenters seem to oust the problematic ones. Some trolls are not deterred by this, though!

    Thanks Ann. Always a great read.


    • July 17, 2011 8:43 am

      Moderation guidelines are a must for any organization with an online community. And it should be underlined that moderation guidelines are a living document. As communities evolve, new situations arise and tools change, moderators (community managers) may need to adapt their guidelines.

      Thank you for the reference to your related blog post “Comments on News Stories: Should the Outlets Have Responsibilities?”

      Your post helps illustrate the significant difference between simply allowing comments and nurturing a community. Successful online communities have community managers. Again, I’m going to direct readers to Rich Millington who sums it up beautifully in his post “The Broader Role Of Moderators In Online Communities” (PS I just noticed that he also recommends adapting guidelines :-)


      • August 17, 2011 12:43 am

        Thanks for your great reply, Colleen, and for reading and discussing my article. This moderation article you linked me to is great. I look forward to more posts from you! In the meantime I know I’ll see you on #hcsmca chat tomorrow at 1 pm EST.


  2. July 17, 2011 5:35 am

    As I read Rich Millington’s post about “Remove Members Quickly”, I can’t help but think this is a little draconian. I agree with Ashley that your sensible “commenters” will deal with problematic members in an ethical and professional manner. I feel that the above Community Manager’s actions demonstrated a respectful and fair course of action.


    • July 17, 2011 8:54 am

      Thanks Eric. I, too, feel that the community manager’s action were respectful and fair.

      Yes, members (commenters) often deal with problematic members. But it is the responsibility of the community manager to ensure that they feel comfortable doing so. In ways that are often very subtle, community managers maintain the tone of the community, and ensure that people can continue to share safely.


  3. July 17, 2011 9:16 am

    An established social networking community will almost always deal with these sorts of posts, but a solid user participation policy is still an important must-have. Newer Facebook pages with fewer users, however, may not yet be at the stage where the community self-polices. Prohibiting posts that advertise specific products or services, for example, might work, though there can be a fine line between overt ads and consumer-generated testimonials.

    This example is just more proof that user communities do not truly belong to the organization that sets them up…they belong to the users themselves. Tough concept to grasp for most organizations who struggle at the thought of giving up control of the message.


    • July 18, 2011 8:49 am

      Fantastic points Dave!
      And we will continue to help show organizations that by giving up (perceived) control of the message opens the door to an incredible source of untapped information, inspiration and resources


  4. July 17, 2011 9:24 am

    I’m sorry! It’s Colleen, not Ann! I confuse you two…

    Your response comment to my comment perfectly illustrates this community you were talking about. Thanks for this reference. I’m going to read it now.


  5. July 17, 2011 10:26 pm

    I am neither a community manager, nor am I troubled by troublesome facebook posters. No matter: Colleen, your post and comments taught me valuable lessons in creating respectful, meaningful and rewarding relationships in the digital universe. Many thanks.


  6. mikenstn permalink
    July 18, 2011 9:27 am

    This question is almost as old as the Internet itself. One of the earliest forms of social media, Usenet News Groups, were virtually destroyed by flamers and spammers. I believe that moderation is critical to the success of any community. Moderation takes on many forms from encouraging participation (something that Colleen does phenomenally well) to dealing with troublesome participants. I for one appreciate active intervention by moderators to mitigate the impact of those people bent on disrupting meaningful and respectful discussion and debate.

    The question of whether to moderate comments and block participants depends upon the nature of the community. There are no hard and fast rules. Some communities are much more effective at self-policing than others and it is up to the community manager / moderator to determine when someone has overstepped the accepted practices in a particular community.

    Michael Martineau


  7. July 18, 2011 11:45 am

    I think it is risky business trying to delete a post or comment. The only posts I have deleted have been blatent spam postings.

    If you are going to react on a post, I think what that community manager did was perfect. Be smart about responses, think about what you are going to say. Don’t feed the fire. Last thing you want is a shouting match.




  8. July 19, 2011 9:32 am

    We have a “Community Standards” policy up on both our Facebook page and our blog that covers situations in which comments/post/users may be removed. That being said, this is still a really tricky situation and I’d have to say that my personal feelings are that removal of a community member is a preferred last option. You’ve provided some really great ideas for dealing with this kind of situation and major kudos to the original community manager that inspired this post!


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