Conflict is an unavoidable part of any online community. A well-defined plan to manage community conflict is a ‘must-have’ element in every community manager’s toolkit.
If not handled properly, conflict within your community may turn into a full-blown crisis and can fracture the community you’ve worked so hard to build along with your users.
In order to ensure that the community remains vibrant, community managers must deal with conflicts head-on and identify the root cause of the conflict, without hampering fellow community members’ experience.
Let’s understand the 101 of conflict management in communities, shall we?
What Leads to Conflict Within an Online Community?
More people means more opinions, which creates more chances of a conflict. It’s pretty normal.
When things go downhill in an online community, they can go very wrong, very quickly. The first step to dealing with conflict in a community is to identify the source of the friction. Generally, conflict arises because of conflicting personalities among your community’s members, common difficulties associated with the usage of online communication tools. For example, the tone of conveying a message can sometimes get misinterpreted in online communities or sometimes the difference in each members’ perception of the online space you’ve provided them with can become a cause for conflict.
Here are 4 ways organizations can tackle and manage conflict in an online community:
1. Identify the Reason for Conflict: The first step to mitigating conflict within your online community is to identify the cause of the conflict. There are many reasons and possibilities such as differences of opinions, expectations, topics of discussion, and more that can cause things to go south. To row through such situations, it is essential that you, as a community moderator, understand the core of the conflict and offer a feasible solution to combat it. It may not be a complete ‘win-win’ situation but try to meet each conflicting party halfway.
2. Plan for Complexity: Community managers can face certain complex situations such as interpersonal or procedural conflicts that can become trickier to manage and resolve. Interpersonal conflicts can arise when members disagree over personal characteristics and procedural conflicts can arise over a disagreement in procedures to achieve the true goal of the community. Conflicts within communities can be ignored on the assumption that these will abate over time which doesn’t always help. Community leaders can form groups with other community leaders and ask for their vote/opinion or discuss with them when faced with an unresolvable conflict situation. This way, they can rely on each other to handle complex conflicts.
3. Set Ground Rules and Policies: It’s a fact that many brands launch their online community without having thoughtfully designed a conflict mediation strategy. Create community guidelines that cover essential topics such as community values, rules for participation, and policies to adhere to when conversations become tense. Make sure to run these policies and guidelines by your legal team and your community leader groups to create a solid plan.
Use Automation to Mediate Conflict: Community managers and moderators have a lot on their shoulders. One such vital task is moderating conversations within their community. But with automated moderation in the community, human intervention can be reduced. Integrating your online community with automated moderation bots can enable you to keep community conversations in check and also, spearhead task management.
To expedite community growth and keep it dynamic with ongoing engagement, you must maintain a balance between the diversity of users’ thoughts and how they’re conveyed in the community.
The key takeaway here is that it is essential to handle community conflict proactively and have a plan of action handy to combat these situations. Community managers must encourage open communication between community members for transparency of thought. This is an important factor for resolving disagreements between community members and would leave you with a clean community with happy members that you strive for.
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