How to Moderate Conflicts within Your Social Media Community

January 8, 2014

conflict management social media

No one relishes the moment at a social gathering when the room goes quiet as two guests delve into their differing viewpoints on an issue. Politics, religion, dietary choices — any of these topics can swiftly become a point of contention between your coworker and your neighbor, or your uncle and your father-in-law. If you’re a social media community manager, your community is your dinner party and you’re the host. Let’s take a look at how to moderate conflicts within your brand’s social media communities.

When Conflict Isn’t Negative

Our pie-in–the-sky dream as community managers is to lead glowingly positive, engaging conversations related to our brands. Unless you manage a community with a goal of creating controversy, you probably recoil any time it pops up in your community and hurry to hush it. Such a strategy alone, however, lacks substance.

Like a dinner party that guests talk about afterward, controversy can result in richer, more significant conversation within your community. A party where you actually learn about people and how they see the world is infinitely more interesting than one where you only chat about the weather forecast — even with a few uncomfortable moments. Likewise, a community that tackles real issues is far more valuable to its members than one that panders for likes, retweets and empty comments.

The trick is learning how to embrace conflict, and how to recognize when it will ruin your party.

Four Responses to Conflict for Social Media Managers

In real life and in social media, moderating conflict starts with knowing your guests and understanding why they’re at your party (or in your community). When a disagreement starts, you can handle it in four ways:

1. Let It Continue, Monitor Closely

Recognize the potential for a conflict to develop into a heated yet deep conversation, let it continue but monitor closely.

When to do this: The conflict has not come up on your community before and you can’t predict how it will play out. At this point, weigh the pros and cons of the conversation continuing. If you find that, at its best, this conversation does not further your brand’s goals on social media, then it’s time to diffuse it.

2. Encourage the Difference of Opinion

The topic has come up in your community before and resulted in a rich, insightful and engaging conversation.

When to do this: It takes time (as well as some trial and error) to discover what these topics are, and the best way to present them. This doesn’t mean creating conflict for the sake of it; it means identifying the issues that are deeply important to your community and get people talking about them.

3. Diffuse the Conflict

Diffuse the conflict and steer the conversation in a different, less controversial direction.

When to do this: The discussion does not contribute to the goals of your community. When the topic at hand is not related to your brand or if the conflict rages on longer than is productive, it’s time to step in and help your community refocus.

4. Immediately End the Conversation

Immediately end the conversation and, if necessary, remove the participants from your community.

When to do this: The conflict involves personal attacks, threats, legal issues or anything that contradicts your community guidelines.

How do you handle conflict in your social media communities?

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.