How to Handle Harassment Reports in Your Community

How to Handle Harassment ReportsHarassment is one of the biggest issues facing online communities at the moment. From tiny enthusiast communities to social media giants like Twitter, the ugly side of the internet is big news at the moment. For community managers, harassment represents a critical liability. No one wants to be hit with a harassment or bullying scandal. Harassment problems grow exponentially if left unchecked, and sites like Twitter are learning how hard it is to solve when the problem is allowed to advance. No type of community is immune from these problems, I’ve seen bullying take place in communities with subjects ranging from video games to maternity. The human instinct to be awful is part of all kinds of people.

Make no mistake: the hands-off, “free speech” approach espoused by many does not work. It’s a cowardly, tacit endorsement of harassing behaviour. I’ve never seen a community where the approach led to anything but a toxic environment ruled by its worst elements. In an enthusiast community, this leads to an unwelcoming, insular environment that stagnates as it fails to gain new members. They can limp on for years, a shadow of a real community. In a customer community, at best the community dies completely. At worst, it becomes a stain on the brand itself as people start to associate it with the worst excesses of the community.

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Why Community is so Important to Fitness Brands


Why Community is so Important to Fitness Communities (1)It’s one of the strange quirks of the internet that fitness and online communities are so closely intertwined. The fitness and supplement industries were some of the first to realize the potential for online customer communities, and sites like T Nation and are in their second decade of life. The huge community at is a large part of the reason why the company sees $400 million+ in annual revenue. Nothing to sniff at, certainly. The industry is, of course, still seeing huge amount of growth. Between wearables (Fitbit, Apple Watch, Pebble etc) large-scale exercise classes (Zumba, Crossfit) and exercise and diet apps (MyFitnessPal, Fitocracy, Nike Run), the market for fitness related products and services shows no sign of stopping.

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When Moderators Fumble

When Moderators Fumble (1)
No one is perfect, and your moderators are no exception. At some point, someone is going to do something wrong. This can be disastrous for your community if poorly handled. Moderators have been given direct authority by the community managers to operate in their name. In a very real sense they represent your company in your community. How you handle these situations is going to make a big difference in how your community views you.

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Startups, Keep Your Support Costs in Check!

Startups! Keep Your Costs in Check!


This is the dream:  each month you get more customers and more revenue. You reinvest that revenue into your sales and marketing efforts and get even more customers. You build a well oiled customer acquisition machine and prepare for glory. What could go wrong?

Keeping Costs Low is Key

One challenge for startups is keeping your “cost of good sold” (COGS) as low as possible. For tech startups,  COGS are things like hosting, the cost to support customers, and customer onboarding. The amount of money you have to cover development, sales and marketing is (Revenue – COGS.)

When you first get started, it’s easy to underestimate customer support costs. Everyone on the team pitches in and helps customers get launched and supported over time. Once you have a hundred or so customers, your support tickets start to pile up, you discover that customers aren’t aware of all the capabilities of  your product and customers in far away time zones are waiting hours for responses.

How a Customer Community Can Help

A great way to keep support costs in check is to roll out some self-serve options. Documentation, FAQs and a customer community are a great place to start.  Customer communities are another. They allow  customers  to answer each other’s questions or find the official answers written by your  support staff with a quick google search. This, in turn, deflects support tickets from your staff. The more  question-answer pairs your community generates, the more useful it becomes to your customers. Modern customers don’t want to sit in a phone queue or webchat. They want to find their answers online, fast.

Let’s talk hard ROI.  What is the cost for your support team to close a single ticket? Obviously, this will be different for different types of businesses, but let’s put it at a ballpark of $10,  (based on a ticket volume of 20 tickets a day, five days a week for a yearly CSR cost of $52,000). Every question that your community forum deflects saves you ten dollars in support costs. Our recent study of customer communities showed that the average discussion was viewed 87 times, and 82% of these questions were answered by other customers. This data seems to show that an impressive ROI is not hard to achieve. Customer support communities also pay back in less direct ways:

  • Preventing customers from churning out
  • Upgrading users through best practises adoption
  • Providing product feedback
  • Helping to reward brand advocacy

Don’t Let Support Costs Creep Up on You

Support is something that no one wants to think about, but as your business grows escalating costs are inevitable. Set up scalable, self serve support options for your customers as soon as possible and reap the rewards long term. Don’t wait until you have tickets piling up, angry customers and a sudden, urgent need for more staff. Let your customers help themselves.