On dealing with negative people
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Much of my time as a community manager is spent interacting with fans of the games I represent. Whether it’s via Twitter, Facebook, or on our own forums, it’s generally a lot of fun to talk to people who’re excited about what you do. Being able to connect so easily and directly with your fans is one of the best things about social media. It also has the capacity to be the ultimate bummer. When you throw yourself out in front to deal with the public you have to steel yourself for the inevitable influx of negativity and it’s never fun. But how do you handle it? What can you do?
You use the greatest tool in the Community Manager aresenal: empathy. The most negative people tend not to be trolls as many seem to think; they’re your super passionate fans who feel extremely (extremely) strongly about the direction of your game. They are trying to call attention to their plight because they want to be heard, acknowledged, and responded to like a human being.
People are often stonewalled when trying to communicate with a company; they are hit with the same sterile line every time. It’s easy to become disenchanted and disaffected until you scream in an effort to just be heard! A lot of times they never expect to get an answer and this can lead to incredibly passive-aggressive behavior. They will fire off a missive with no intention of following up or caring how it’s taken because they’ve been treated similarly in the past.
Here’s where we can come in and change that attitude!
Follow up and talk to them. Treat them with kindness and combat their sour attitude with positivity! Try to see why they’re upset and understand their point of view. Remember, you’re not only representing your game/product/company to the users, you are representing the users as well. If the issue is legitimate, bring it up and try to get a resolution or at least an actual answer. Your responsibility flows in both directions.
By opening up, being yourself, and staying positive you may find that those extra vocal naysayers become extra vocal supporters. You’ve just shown them that your company considers them worth the time and effort to engage with and that’s awesome! Usually this is all it takes if you’re sincere and honest.
This may sound like a self-help book, but having a positive mental attitude can help combat that feeling of despondency you get after reading that 10th, 100th, or 1000th terrible comment of the day. The main thing to remember is to try and find where they’re coming from. If you treat people with respect, kindness, and even a little sarcastic humor you can make a powerful ally.
Of course this doesn’t work on people whose only purpose is to get a rise out of you. However, it helps you identify who’s a troll and who’s just frustrated and fed up. With actual trolls, I find that there are a couple of things you can do to deal with them if your platform allows it.
A logical first choice is to ban them. This is usually only temporary because a dedicated troll will find ways around it (making new accounts, etcetera). Your best hope is that they tire of this back-and-forth and move on to fresher victims. Luckily there’s a better solution: hide them.
Let me elaborate: hide them from everyone else in your community but not themselves. If you can find a way to incorporate this into your forums, your blog comments, or elsewhere it will save you a ton of headaches. Persistent trolls will continue to make new accounts as they get banned, but if they’re the only ones that can see their posts, they may never figure out why everyone has finally decided to just ignore their vitriol. While not perfect, it works well and lets your community get back to having a good time or asking legitimate questions and voicing honest opinions. It also allows you to get back to your job.
Hopefully reading this has helped make an already difficult and mentally tasking job a little easier to handle. It’s easy to lose track of the potential reasons people are yelling at you; after all, it’s never fun to have a ton of negativity thrown in your face. Take a step back and try and see things from their perspective and you’ll often find that they’re not so unreasonable after all.
Original post at: http://www.evchon.com/2013/05/16/on-dealing-with-negative-people/