ren asked: “What [do you] do when you ban someone for defamation (not of you) and impersonation and they use social networks to bad mouth your forum and organization?”

I’ve banned a lot of people. The vast majority of them were simple spammers or the like. But, some of them were members that had contributed something. If you have guidelines that you fairly and evenly apply to your community, you will have to ban people. It’s the nature of the beast.

Some of those people will speak poorly of you and your community in public spaces. I find that a reasonable portion of these people, in my case, claim that I banned them because I disagree with them or because I am mad with power. Those are particularly popular reasons.

What should you do about it? Generally, nothing. Many of these comments are made in spaces where you would likely do more damage to yourself by acknowledging and engaging, than if you were to simply leave it alone. If you are thinking of responding, there are a couple of things you should consider.

What Are They Saying?

If someone is claiming that I am an egotistical maniac, a bad community manager or anything like that, that is fine. That is an opinion and they are entitled to it. I’m not going to argue with people about whether or not I’m competent.

If they say that I stole money from someone or that I am a child molester, that is different. That is not an opinion, but a matter of fact. I once had someone sign up for an account on a forum, pretending to be me and suggesting I was a sexual predator of some sort. I took swift action, contacting the company that provided hosting for the forum and it was removed quickly. I did not respond publicly (and likely would not have, just because the space where they did it was so small).

If the message is one of opinion or of muddled fact that doesn’t especially matter (i.e. “he banned me because I’m too real!”), move on to…

Who Will See This Message?

What is the audience for this message? Is it mostly people you have no chance winning over, anyway? Is it on someone’s personal blog that barely gets any comments? It generally isn’t worth venturing into unfriendly or exceptionally biased territory to address these sorts of messages. Sometimes, it may be, however. Especially in a forum that is important to your industry or if something ranks well for an important search engine term. It may be worth, at least, putting your side of the story out there, in context, even if it is not well received.

Rarely, very rarely, it may be worth addressing on your site, but only if the issue has permeated throughout your community already. It is not worth addressing an issue that your members have no idea about because then, you are not addressing it – you are introducing them to unnecessary drama.

I will say, in the vast majority of cases, no one ever receives a public reply from me of any kind. I do document the things that they say, privately in our user documentation system, right along with the details of what led them to be banned in the first place. This furthers the paper trail and allows me to view the entire situation as a whole, should anything come up with that person in the future.

This approach has worked really well. Do these comments sting? Yeah. Am I human? Yeah. But, replying because it makes me feel better or replying to vent is not a win for me. If I’m doing that, I’ve already lost. When you accept a role of authority, where you have to tell people they can’t do things, you accept that some people will not like you and will speak badly of you. You must be able to deal with that, in your own way, without making the situation worse.

In those cases, I don’t want to acknowledge them, sacrifice my time for them, provide them with any additional attention or encourage them in any way. Most unreasonable people will go away when they find their remarks fall on deaf ears and most comments of this nature just aren’t worth responding to.

“Diss me and you’ll never hear a reply for it.” -Drake

“A wise man told me don’t argue with fools, ’cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who.” – Jay-Z