Pumpkin Tree!
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

Have you ever had a member who says that you did something that you actually didn’t do?

For example, a member of one of my communities recently posted in public, on a thread within our community, suggesting that a member of staff had told them a post they made earlier in the thread was “wrong.” Beyond the fact that we don’t allow posts that reference moderation decisions, there was one gigantic problem with this: it never happened.

No one on my staff had told them that there was anything wrong with their post. The post itself was still on the thread, untouched. When a post is made that violates our guidelines, it is removed – not left. No one contacted them.

Beyond removing the post for the aforementioned reason, in my message to the member, I also reminded them that no one had contacted them about their post. It was a fact that they had no response for.

That is just one example, but for any action you can take, a member could potentially claim something related to that action that is untrue. You banned this person. You didn’t ban that person. You banned this person because you hate freedom. You removed this post for this reason. Whatever.

That’s what I want to talk about today. When a member posts, in your community, misleading the members of that community about something you or your staff has done in the management of it. When it is done on other sites you don’t manage, or said by banned members, I flip into strategies similar to those I outlined in “How to Handle Banned Members Who Say Bad Things About You.”

But, what current members say, I treat with special importance, especially when it is said within the confines of my community. Some might say, “well, it’s just one comment, it has no impact.” That could be. However, I tend to believe that the impact could be far reaching because if it is allowed to stand, on your community, without being removed or clarified, then people take it as a fact and/or stew about it. For this reason, I don’t just let it sit, without any attention.

Again, my policy is that we don’t allow comments regarding moderation decisions and that we ask that all feedback be offered directly. But, most people don’t have the same policies. If your policy is to allow remarks like this, in a feedback forum or elsewhere, that’s fine. The biggest reason I don’t like that is because it can turn into tit for tat. You may have the truth on your side, but how far into that truth can you go? And even if you tell all, that’s airing dirty laundry and some people will simply choose not to believe you. In some cases, you’ll be arguing with a liar, which isn’t the greatest battle to pick.

Nonetheless, if that is your policy, at least make sure that the comments are addressed. Keep it simple, professional, honest and direct. Remember that you are not just replying to that member, but replying to everyone who will ever read that message. Allow that perspective to guide you.