How to Deal with a Troll in your Community

trollSo… you’ve got a troll in your community?

First off, congrats!  Getting your first troll is a sign that your community has made it.

Now what to do, what to do…

Some trolls are blatantly just spamming or being complete assholes.  In this case, you can probably skip right to the ol’ ban button.

Unfortunately, often it’s not that clear.  They might rub people the wrong way but are they really breaking the rules?  Maybe they’re just weird different.  I’ve had a number of those where I know they’re coming from a good place but every time they post I just think “whaaaaat the f…”  Maybe they’re just controversial people and their mom never taught them to be polite.

Here are some options you can try to address the situation:

1. First, make sure you have your community guidelines in place.

It’s really important in these situations that you have a set of guidelines in place.  This way, you don’t have to argue with the troll, you can just point to the guidelines.

Not sure how?  Ligaya Tichy has a great article walking you through the fundamentals of building an effective set of community guidelines.

2. Send a private message reminding them of the guidelines.

Send a nice informal note.  Tone is really important in situations like this.  You don’t want to be too strong, but you also don’t want to be too soft.  Again, you can point to the guidelines to take any emotion out of it.

“Hey Franky, thanks for being an active member of our fly fishing community.  Just wanted to send you a quick reminder that in our community guidelines, we ask that members refrain from any personal attacks on other members.  Thanks for your help in keeping the community awesome.  Stay fishy!”

There… that should do it.

But just in case it didn’t…

3. Follow up with another private message if it persists.

This one can be a big more specific and actually include a warning.

“Hey Franky, me again.  Your recent comment on Sandy’s post was a violation of our community guidelines.  This is just a warning since this is only the second occurance, but as the moderator it’s my responsibility to make sure our community stays healthy and respectful.  If you continue to post messages that violate the guidelines, we’ll have to suspend you from the community.  We hope you understand and you’ll work with us to make this community awesome.  Stay calm and fish on!”

4. Post a general announcement to the community

This is a nice passive-aggressive approach.  If you see someone do something wrong, just post a message to the entire community reminding everyone of the guidelines.  If it’s only a level 1 troll, this could take care of it.  Stubborn trolls probably won’t be phased.

5. If they’re clearly being a a huge disturbance and breaking the rules, then all them out directly

If they’re clearly breaking rules to the extent that there wouldn’t be a doubt in the eyes of the community, just call them out in front of everyone.  Comment in response to their comment.

“Moderator stepping in here.  Please keep the conversation respectful. We’re all here to have fun and get our fish on.  Please read the community guidelines if you’re unsure of what’s allowed.”

Now be careful here.  You don’t want to get pulled into a public argument with the troll.  You always want to leave emotion out of it.  You’re the judge not the lawyer.  You’re here to serve justice, not to point fingers.

6. Suspend

Still not getting the point?  Give em a good ol’ slap on the wrist.  1 week suspension!  Just let them know in a private message that they’ll regain access to the community in a week.

7. Ban

Sometimes, you just have to cut em loose.  Good riddens troll!

A ban is ruling with an iron fist though.  Use it wisely.

There’s a good chance the troll will try to make a lot of noise, kicking and screaming on their way out.  They’ll want to get back at you.  Be careful.

You may also want to let the community know what happened.  Transparency is always good.  Community members start to get a little uncomfortable when people just start disappearing, even if they were a troll.

What else have you done to deal with a troll in your community?


Photo Credit: TheoJunior via Compfight cc

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About the author

David Spinks, CMXSummit and Lifelong student, community builder and writer.



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