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July 5, 2012

How to Handle Soapboxers

by massmarotta
Soap Dispenser

Soapboxers can be a tricky bunch to manage. They often carry extremely strong personalities within online communities, often replying to every post – possibly multiple times, to really drive home their point of view. Note: They are not to be confused with power users.

Based on my observations, ‘boxers post just to hear himself talk. They feel that they are the resident subject matter expert (which may be true) and all other opinions that oppose theirs are simply incorrect.

If not managed early, ‘boxers can spiral out of control. Often times, they begin to bully other members and use explicit or derogatory language towards them. The obvious outcome? Your members will be stymied (believe it or not, first time I’ve used that word) by this behavior and you’ll see an instant drop in return visits and member contributions.

Be cordial at first. Have one on one communications with the ‘boxer asking them to tone it down and respect others’ opinions. Point them to the community guidelines as a reminder of accepted behavior.

If they continue in their ways, it’s time for some moderation.  Have all their posts immediately hit the moderation queue to be screened for a probationary period.  This may cause more work for your moderation team, but in the best interest of the community, it’ll be worth it. What if your community platform doesn’t allow such targeted moderation? Suspend the account for 30 days. This will send a clear message that these are serious offenses and there’s no place for it in your community.

Ok, so you’ve tried everything by now and their still right back at it with their antics. It’s time to ask yourself, is it worth all the time, effort and resources to keep this member? And if you are asking yourself this question, you’ve already answered it. NO, it is not worth it. It’s time to cut this member loose and move on. I understand your hesitance, but believe me, more good will come out of banning this member than bad. New members will begin to emerge. Why? Because you once again created a non-threatening environment for all community members to enjoy.

Do you have soapboxers in your community? How did you manage them? What was the outcome?