By DB Ferguson of the No Fact Zone
Anyone who has ever spent time in any fandom for any length of time realizes that there are two inevitability types of fans. The first is that there are always going to be fans who take their enthusiasm about the celebrity or hobby to an unacceptable extreme. The second, in every fandom, there’s a handful of people who are simply going to rub you the wrong way.
There’s the fan who insists they have inside connections, when they don’t. There’s the fan who can “concern troll” you to the point of you wanting to scream out loud. There’s the overenthusiastic fan who posts things that make you cringe. There’s the fan who declares a jihad on you because you “betrayed” them for some reason known only to them. And then there’s the one that is just flat out part of “the krazies” that every fandom has.
I’ll admit, I have a few people who quite honestly I wish would just go away. They don’t, and they won’t – it’s the nature of the beast you created with your fan blog.
Let’s look at how you encourage your community to grow while weeding out the fans who only seem to bring the fandom down as I continue with my series on The Art of the Fan-Based Blog.
That’s the $64,000 question that every fandom blogger asks. The flat-out “krazie” fans are easy to spot. You have to trust your gut on this one, though.
If a reader start asking rather personal questions about your subject, babbles incoherently, brags about blatantly inappropriate behavior, acts with an inappropriate sense of entitlement, or just sends off red flags in your mind, this is probably someone to be watched carefully and avoided if possible. If you have the nagging feeling that the interaction you are having with a particular person is going to end badly, there’s usually a reason for that.
Trust yourself and your instincts when you feel like there could be potential problems in developing a relationship with a reader. My recommendation for those types of fans is to distance yourself from them as much as possible and to do your best damage control at the first sign of trouble.
Here are some tips to help manage situations before they escalate:
- Have a Strong Comments Policy: Write a strong and clear comments policy that defines the ground rules for participation on your blog and within your online community. Set the rules and the consequences of those rules. I’ve included my Comment Policy in my Site FAQ, and link to it frequently when I feel that a commenter has gotten out of line.
- Let the Community Deal With Them: There will always be problem children in fandoms. Instead of being the parent, sometimes it’s wiser to let the community handle the troll. They might not be a troll but a misguided person, and the community can often put them on the straight and narrow path again without intervention from you.
- Edit the Comment: You decide what parts of the comment or comment content should remain on your blog, if there is anything worth saving. It’s your content and you have the right to edit it in order to protect your community. You can remove their blog link, change the name, and edit the content. If you edit it drastically, you can include a note that says “Edited by Moderator” to let everyone know that you’ve taken action here. It is usually appreciated. It’s also a very good idea to notify the commenter of the change and why it was made via e-mail, outside of the boundaries of the blog.
- Be Prepared to Defend Yourself – or Not: It’s your blog. It’s up to you to defend yourself or not, but you must be ready to take a stand if necessary. A strong Comments policy is a good defense, too. Trolls will happen. It’s up to you to be ready for awkward situations when they appear.
- Delete Their Comments Without Hesitation: This is a last resort, but if you feel that a person is becoming a threat to the community, protect the community first. The sooner they are off the board, the less attention they get from you and everyone else.
Most “problem children” in fandoms are not true trolls. They are more likely to be good people, acting in a way that you simply find inappropriate or excessively enthusiastic for your blog.
It is better for the community to help these fans rather than to humiliate or banish them. If you run off every person that makes a cringe worthy comment, you might end up running off some really great people. It’s much better to gently guide and suggest than to react with negative words.
When Fans Cross the Line
Fans can cross the line, sometimes. Sometimes intentionally, more often ignorantly. If someone is posting comments I find inappropriate, I’ll send them a gentle e-mail reminding them of the standards of our blog and our blog comment policy (we tend to keep things family-friendly). I keep my chastisement off the main site and private. In almost every case, they’ve understood the constructive criticism, becoming active and appreciated members of the site community.
The bottom line is that it’s your blog. You control the content of your site, 100%.
Just because a reader posts a comment doesn’t mean you have to leave it. Just because a reader shares a story with you doesn’t mean you have to blog it.
It is highly probable that a strong content management style will drive someone away to the point where they lash out at you in other areas of the fandom. When things get volatile with one of your readers, take the highest road possible and take a big step back from the situation. While you cannot control the actions of others, you do have control over what you say and do in response.
Often, these “issues” that come up are visible to a very small amount of your readers. Addressing them publicly in your blog brings them to the attention to everyone who reads your site, and could shine a very negative light on you to both old and new readers. Keep your focus on keeping this negativity off of your site entirely.
You do not have to respond. You do not have to play their games. Whoever originally said “don’t feed the trolls” was a very wise person, as it applies more than anything to these types of people.
Nothing you can say in these situations will elevate you – all you’ll be doing is stooping to the level of the troll, and you will often end up looking foolish in the process. Even the most persistent trolls will eventually be shamed out of the fandom, or will take their ball and go home when they stop getting the attention they crave. As Adam Ant so beautifully sang, “Don’t you ever lower yourself, forgetting all your standards.”
Negativity and “the krazies” can quickly turn a positive hobby into a serious emotional drain. While sometimes it is hard, remember to let go and focus on the positives. Your blog is supposed to be fun. A fan blog is fun.
One of the things I say often is that I run a Shiny, Happy Blog, with shiny happy comments. I make sure to stress in the culture of my comments the positive experiences of being a fan, and actively discourage negativity and snark.
Don’t focus on the 1% who don’t like you. Focus on the 99% who do.
No matter what concessions you give, you can never be friends with everyone. Inevitably, the ones you drive away will be the biggest krazies of them all.
You may not be able to stop someone from saying rude things about you in their personal blog or even in other parts of the fandom. You best line of defense is to be as professional and sincere on your blog and in your contacts with your community as you can, and to distance yourself from contentious fans as soon as you realize that the person is going to do more harm than good to your site and its readers.
Your diligence in fostering a safe and positive environment will speak for itself to your readers and be rewarded with an atmosphere of trust within your core community, which I will talk about in the next article in this series.
By DB Ferguson of the No Fact Zone
DB Ferguson is the webmaster of No Fact Zone, a Stephen Colbert-centric news blog and fan site. DB loves the enthusiastic waves of comments that come with each new post on her site, and is proud of the fact that she maintains a Shiny, Happy blog for Shiny, Happy fans.
- Introducing the Art of the Fan-Based Blog Article Series
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Cultivate Your Passion
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Competition Means Collaboration
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Create a Game Plan
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Content, Content, Content
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Content, Content, Content Part II
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Copyrights for You and Your Content Sources
- The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Community Wins