Trolls Versus Critics

Nobody likes trolls. They hinder your ability to grow your community and ought to be ignored. But what about those people in the community that are always critical and never have anything positive to say? Are they trolls, too?

Megaphonephoto © 2009 Jonas Boni | more info (via: Wylio)The excellent community management blogger Rich Millington recently wrote a piece entitled Dealing With Your Community’s Vocal Critics in which he advised against trying to please these people. That got me thinking about trolls and critics and the difference between the two.

To me, a troll is somebody who has one goal: to disrupt the community while calling attention to his or her self. Critics, even the most negative and persistent ones, are different. Their complaints usually have legitimate basis, even if it is blown out of proportion. They should not be ignored or shut out like trolls.

I’m not recommending that you interact with these people because you’ll somehow make them happy or get them to see your side of the issue. You won’t. But you will show the rest of the community that you’re doing your best to listen to everyone and respond to their concerns. In other words, you don’t do it for the critic, you do it for everyone who’s watching.

Also, when you ignore a critic, you give that critic another reason to criticize you. Not only are you guilty of whatever it is that they first complained about, you’re also guilty of refusing to respond.

That said, community managers need to be very careful when interacting with vocal critics.

First and foremost, remain calm and professional. Never lower yourself to the critic’s level. Kill them with kindness. Be polite to a fault.

Once you’ve responded to a question, these people will often pick apart your answer and twist your words so that they can continue the thread. Instead of indulging the critic by crafting a response to each and every argument, say something like “I really can’t add anything to my previous answer.” Say it several times if you have to.

Critics will also try to lure you into a ping pong game of posts and counter-posts. Don’t do it. If you’ve posted a response to the critic’s complaint and the critic immediately comes back with another question, wait until the next day to respond. You’ll still be responding within a reasonable amount of time, but you’ll give the discussion — and the critic — a chance to cool down.

How do you deal with vocal critics in your community? Please add a comment and share your experiences.

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