Penalty Cards in Social Media Communities

One bad person can ruin a great community. And this is the beginning of the story where “social media” and “soccer” have more in common than just their first three letters. Soccer? Social Media? What could the two have in common? (And btw, apologies to readers and friends outside the US … I do realize the proper name is football, but hey, you Americans would just get it confused with that other football game we play here.)

So let’s begin with the problem statement first – What do you do when someone is abusive, inappropriate, and/or insulting to the community? I’m not talking about being negative – but down right offensive to the community as a whole. You must allow the members of the community to voice their concerns – even if they have some criticism of you. You can not pull comments and posts that are critical of you or your brand. (Case in point – Nestle’s fiasco).

But when someone uses your community or blog as a platform to mouth off inappropriately you must step in. You should start by having a policy that is viewable by the public. A policy that states something like, “We at ___ value freedom of speech and welcome all your comments, with few exceptions … We will remove comments that 1) are offensive and/or attacking of other members, 2) use vulgar language, and 3) that are off topic.”

So what do you do – and here my friends are the tie into soccer. You play referee and administer “Yellow Cards” and “Red Cards.”

In soccer, a Yellow Card indicates a formal “caution” for things including unsportsmanlike conduct and dissent by word or actions (among other things). So in social media communities and blogs, this means giving the perpetrator a warning. You should pull their comments down and send them a personalized note reminding them of the policy and the intent of the community or blog. You should provide specific reasons why their comments have been flagged and tell them they are still invited to participate in the community within policy. Failure to do so will result in a “Red Card” and being thrown out of the community.

When a player is shown a Red Card, they are sent off the field. After you have “shown” a disruptive member the yellow card, and they continue to go against policy, then you show them the red card and throw them out and block them from the community.

This action needs to be taken to preserve the value of the community for all the other members. Make sense? Any questions?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under community, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Penalty Cards in Social Media Communities

  1. Steve,
    As I read this blog, I realized I should have such a policy on my blog. Being the lazy guy I am, I went to your blog with the intent to liberate the language you had used. There wasn’t any.
    It seems like a blog ought to have such a policy as it does define both that you are willing to post the contrary reply, thus not stifling the conversation, but there is a defined line in the sand. Thoughts?

    • Walt –

      You make a good point, but I purposely do not have any policy stated for 2 reasons – 1) I have not had to (I am sure I now curse myself saying this), and 2) I have the blog set up to approve any comments before the are posted up.

      In a community, (or Facebook fan page) you do not have this same control. I think you need policy in these places.

      Hope this helps.


  2. Hi Steve,

    It is a great point and one where policy should exist to draw the line. I’ve been on forums where I’ve been threatened with removal from groups for things as inane as:
    -posting a public networking event hosted by non-profits
    -recommending a software

    I’ve also been on forums, blogs, and LinkedIn communities to witness outright war of words and personal bashing that goes unfettered by the moderator… to the point where I stopped following the discussion.

    The responsibility for the terms of engagement and parameters of discussion in the space are the responsibility of the moderator, and can be a huge responsibility.

    I have the group set up as a NJ-based network for marketing and communications professionals, but now have to deal with the first person whose profile is from out of country and did not respond to my inquiry as to whether he is actually a NJ based individual. The terms I had established have been broken, and now I am forced to manage the membership.

    The same holds true for any other type of misconduct. But you are right: it should be specified for people who are members.

  3. Nick Cheas

    Hi Steve,

    As usual you bring up a great topic that in someway, somehow should be addressed.

    If it is a group or blog, I’ve seen examples of good and inappropriate behaviour for that site that way the flow in not interrupted.

    Maybe have them fill out a briefparagraph of why they want to be part of.

    • Hi Nick,

      Thanks for the kind words. I think a paragraph to sign up is a little too much to ask for. People are guarded to do this. While many set up a community to capture info on members they must do this in a progressive manner over time … not ask for too much early in the relationship … build it up over time.

      Thanks and best,
      Social Steve

  4. Alden

    I think this sounds like a great idea – simple and effective. As with anything, it takes a moderator who is open to fair and productive criticism. Or (s)he could just remove any comments that disagree.
    I’m sure most people would take the responsibility of moderating fairly very seriously. But how many commenters would notice if a moderator did decide to remove critical comments?
    Would they raise an uproar?

    • I think the moderator should be transparent and note when someone has been removed. In this case there would be no uproar (assuming the person was removed for abusive behavior and not a slanted opinion).

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