So you have built your community and things are running smoothly. Your target audience is engaged and interacting with you and other members through lively and relevant posts and comments. Things are running so well that you do not always need to facilitate the conversations because your community is keeping the conversation interesting and relevant.
Then one person suddenly seems to have made it their mission to ruin your community with their bad behaviour. It seems like this troll is posting all over your community and offer nothing other than rude and angry comments.
In my years working at Vanilla Forums, nothing gets me angry more than people who ruin the good vibes of a community. They purposely go out of their way to make a negative experience for other members of the community.
So what are you supposed to do?
While you may have always had a ‘free speech’ policy before in your community, it is important to make it known that bad behaviour will not be tolerated.
Understanding the Motivation Behind Trolling
Once a troll gets started, their main intent is to emotionally harm your community by causing disruption. Someone who is a troll enjoys the disruption they cause and then relishes the attention from other community members even if it is negative attention. A troll is not offended by being referred to as such because they will purposely lie, exaggerate and offend members for the attention.
Trolls tend to have the following characteristics, they:
- Have strong contrarian opinions that often go against the flow of your community
- Enjoy aggravating fellow members with their offense, aggressive or combative discourse
- Believe they are the “keepers of the rules”
Though trolls may be a small minority within your forum, they can quickly discourage other community members and destroy your forum’s usefulness or value to those members.
How to Eliminate Trolling
Your intent with your community forum from the start may have been to allow all comments, but this makes it difficult to prevent and eliminate trolling. From the onset, make sure you define the purpose of your community and what the ground rules are for posting in your community forum. Work with your loyal community members, such as your moderators and superusers curtail trolls by promoting a “Don’t Feed the Trolls” mindset. If community members don’t take the troll bait and fail to react to a troll’s negative comments that are meant incite the group, they will often just leave and move on to the next forum in search of results.
Pre-moderating comments can be an effective solution, but it can hamper the discussion because of the time lag that occurs between the time the post is made and the time until a moderator approves it. This method can also be costly because of the labor costs involved. Another solution is to post-moderate comments, which will eliminate the time lag and keep the conversation going, but the caveat is that comments from trolls may receive attention temporarily.
Software that can automatically moderate posts is another option to consider. Instead of having to devote time and labor toward moderating forum comments, some programs can curtail space and police trolls. However, the software needs to be compatible to your comment software; i.e. if you are using WordPress, Akismet, Spam Karma 2 and Bad Behavior are compatible tools.
Don’t let a troll disrupt your community by preventing it from achieving its goals. Be proactive from the start and take a strong stand against trolls.