Three Most Common Conflicts with Online Communities

By Alex Scharg on July 10th, 2015 / Comments

All websites have issues perceived as apples versus oranges and one single decision can influence thousands of users. Through working with an online community for several years, three conflicts stand alone as driving forces between varieties of communities. Below is a snapshot into the variety of decisions that online communities encounter

1. How Far to Push Content Producers
There are many instances in building the foundation and brand when communities want to earn the title of “daily publication.” There is a desire to produce at least one piece of content each day to garner retention of an audience and make it a resourceful, go-to-community. However, when motivating contributors who are not paid, it may become an issue to receive enough content to be produced daily. Nagging contributors by call or email is sometimes the result of a content drought and, in the future, has an effect on the content production. Pulling a reporter’s teeth can sometimes be that kick in the butt that will produce more content, but the question of quality versus quality summarizes this example and highlights the emotional decision-making process.

2. Prizes and Giveaways
Outside of internal contributors, users who comment and stay active on the community are a major part of revenue and production. When garnering a user base from the ground up, incentivizing certain features early in beta or having gift card giveaways can quickly lead to mass audience and sharing. Should a community have to “pay” for audience or contribution? More so, is it unfair to give away a free trial to something when it turns out that everyone gets the free trial anyway and it was fabricated to begin with?

To give another example, Nielsen encloses a few dollars to entice radio listeners to report their listening habits for a week. Radio stations, in turn, consume these ratings as standard. But is that ethical in socioeconomics? The answer seems obvious, but image and perception comes into play here with ethics. Plus, meeting the revenue and user-base quota of an investor can sometimes drive the decision making with this.

3. When to Regulate Behavior
History with MySpace and YouTube showcases how spammers and unwanted contributors negatively affect online communities. In the case of MySpace, the amount of spam and organization ultimately led to a decrease in users. Sexual innuendos and comments about illegal drugs may be over the line, but what about the Public Relations director removing a negative review or comment of a company? Is the role of a community manager fair when it comes to perception by anonymous users and monitoring the “news?” Furthermore, some companies receive four and five star ratings over a product, but it is solely reflected by a majority of positive reviews made by in-house employees or by the removal of negative comments with unhappy experiences.

Another example is positive recommendations on LinkedIn. An in-house company employee may receive a positive review from a colleague, and then returns a positive recommendation back tit-for-tat. Is that employee’s image skewed because of this? Retention and accuracy are the big ideas that come into play, here.

These examples can be a guide into future decision-making. But are they the most common? Are there more frequent examples of conflict with online communities? Be the judge and comment below.

About the Author

Alex Scharg