When things go wrong- how to deal with conflicts as a community manager?

Community management has become a buzzword in the past decade: since all brands put more and more effort to their social media presence, there is a rising need to invest in an authentic and quality relationship with their audience. But things don’t always go as planned.

As I’m currently working on a social media strategy for one of my clients, in an industry where user complaints are common, I decided to dig deeper into the topic of conflict management. I think that might be the hardest part of the community manager’s job: being a great mediator who does not only recognise fast when a trouble arises but also knows how to act without making things worse.

In this article by Beth McIntyre collects tips and tricks from industry professional which might help us to re-think how to handle conflicts in online communities.

Corporate conflict management on social media - Journal of Marketing  Management

Be prepared

Make sure that moderators and community managers are well-prepared when something comes up. This is something I’ve always found extremely important, even if you work in an industry where commenters are all nice and fun and trolls do not exist. (sounds like true Paradise for a brand!) You always have to lay the groundwork and set up rules for different scenarios, so whoever has to deal with the conflict, has a guide how to do so.

Reward and punishment

Not only moderators need to follow certain rules, but whoever joins an online community agrees its terms. However users tend to forget them, and break those rules. In these situations a community manager has to intervene and remind them about the rules – according to the article this can happen both in private message or in public.
They also suggest to reward good behaviour, and acknowledge members that are having a positive impact in the community and can be role models for others.

Reach out

To make an informed decision, you need to gather all the information to completely understand the situation. Asking the right questions, being open and warm (I would say being human) is an efficient way to handle conflicts.

Lock or ban

These two steps are mostly used when a conflict arises and becomes unmanageable. Locking a thread is an option if users get too passionate and are not open to each other’s opinions. Ban should be the very last resort – as they say – if someone has been warned of the consequences but still hasn’t changed his/her behaviour.

What would you suggest for a future community manager?

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