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If you come into an online community and you feel the need to include something like “if the admins think this is spam, please delete” in a post, you should take this as an indication not to post whatever it is that you are about to post.

Here is what the message conveys: I don’t care to take the time to read the guidelines or ask to be sure, I don’t care if I’m pushing said guidelines and, finally, I don’t care if I take up the time of staff members by potentially making them remove this post. This isn’t exactly the good neighbor impression one might want to make.

What should you do instead? First, check the guidelines or rules for the community. They might be linked in the header or footer or made as a sticky thread in the forums. Generally speaking, if they exist, they probably aren’t too hard to find. Can’t find any? No problem. Most active online communities have someone in charge. Whether it be an administrator or moderator, ask them. Send a message to a moderator or administrator or use the contact form on the site.

This way, you won’t have to assume or guess, you are thought of as a thoughtful, caring person and you are treating the community and it’s staff with the appropriate level of respect. Everyone wins!

As a recent Facebook status update, I wrote:

Always love when a banned member says “you know I can just keep signing up, so stop banning me.” Never.

My friend Chris posted a reply to that update:

I love how they think it’s a game and they’ll “win” if they keep trying. Nothing screams loser more than trying to win at being a troll. lol.

And it’s true. I mean, we all have people like this, that seem like they are competing with the world for the title of biggest idiot ever. If you haven’t yet, just give it some time. I’ve had people, like the one mentioned above, tell me that they can come back if they want and there is nothing I can do about it.

I remember one person telling me that they knew how to take me down and I knew how to take them down (???), so why don’t I just let them back in and we can avoid all that. Really? My response: no response. I’ll close the site down before I let anyone like that on it. I documented the message for me and my staff and that was that. Good luck in crazyville.

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Skimlinks, a service that I reviewed in May, allows you to generate income from links posted on your site by checking to see if the site linked to has an affiliate program.

In my review, I noted that links posted on your site were redirected through the redirectingat.com domain name, owned by Skimlinks. While understandable, the fact that all links were being redirected through a third party domain name could cause people to question the legitimacy or safety of the links, simply due to fear of the unknown.

I also mentioned that Skimlinks was planning to introduce a new feature that would allow you to direct the links through your own domain name, which would go a long way in dealing with this issue. I received an e-mail today announcing that this option was now available.

Instead of redirecting through redirectingat.com, you can go through go.yourdomain.com or whatever subdomain you’d like. All that is required is a CNAME addition to your domain name (often times done by your web host if you are on shared hosting) and a small change to the Skimlinks code on your site.

The ability to do this is definitely a nice addition to an already solid service.

If you know me, you know I like to keep private business private. I don’t like to air dirty laundry. When someone violates our guidelines, it’s removed completely and we contact them privately and ban them privately, if appropriate. We try hard to keep details internal, even if it means that people believe some lie a banned member told them. This is my policy and I am happy (and proud) to say we are great at sticking to it.

But, that doesn’t mean that exceptions won’t be made. It doesn’t mean that you can push me around, lie to me, trick my users, try to intimidate me on Twitter and take advantage of countless forums, blogs and social spaces and get away with it. At some point, eventually, you can go too far. And when that happens, as much as I don’t enjoy it, I will tell people about what you are doing because there is a consequence and there are repercussions for unethical behavior.

This is what happened with Sports Legends Challenge. They have engaged in despicable activities and deceived people in their marketing efforts. The funny thing is that there are a few details left out of that post, too, that make it even worse.

Make no mistake that my intention is to shed light on this, but I was also careful to keep the discussion productive, to the best of my ability and resisted name calling and things that would serve to derail the post’s true purpose, which is to expose these activities. I hope that it is taken as a learning experience.

It’s a good read, I believe, for community managers because it’ll help you to see how far some people can go and what you need to look out for, if you haven’t already experienced it. Good luck.

I just sent a very frank, but polite message to a member who contacted me, mentioning a piece of spam that was posted on the forums, but using it to say that even with spammers like this, I have time free to bother good members who are trying to help (not his exact words, but close enough) by removing their posts that violate our guidelines and contacting them and how he and some other members are tired of it. It was a condescending message.

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, and it won’t be the last. But, it did get me thinking of the member/staff dynamic and how it is sometimes compared, by me and others, to a customer service relationship. This is true in some ways, but it is not the complete story. Community members are sort of like customers… they are your visitors, your clientele, the people who partake in the community that you are cultivating.

But, whereas the goal of customer service is most often to please, community management is a different game. We want people to be happy, yes, but not at the cost of violating community guidelines, standards or norms because those things are a part of the foundation of the community and what you’re all about. Sometimes, when interacting with a member, you must be direct and frank, in a polite and respectful way.

You have to tell them that what they just said was wrong, that this is the problem, that you must do this and that there could be consequences if you don’t. It’s about being honest and setting realistic expectations. Not challenging them to push them, but letting them know that they exist.

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