I have written before about how to deal with abusive users. Before you do that though, you should always consider whether those irritating members who frequent your community are all that bad.
At times, irritating members can inject some humour into your site. At other times, they can create controversy and encourage discussion. Either way, you should always consider whether taking action against an abusive or irritating member is in your best interest.
Not all abusive members are the same
You should never tar every abusive member with the same brush. A sexual predator is not the same as someone who gets a kick out of winding other members up. A sexual pervert is not the same as someone who loves to always write in caps lock.
There are some members that need to have action taken against them. Anyone that risks your site’s reputation or the safety of your members needs to be dealt with swiftly, firmly and decisively. Those that pose no risk though, may be beneficial to your community.
Irritating members can help your community
People will remember your community based on its members. Communities succeed because people want to log into your site and chat with people they know, and to find new friends. Controversial and slightly crazy members stick in peoples’ minds. They are remembered. People will think of your community whenever they think of certain users.
As your slightly more controversial and extroverted members are easier to notice and remember, they become an easily recognisable part of your community. Even if people openly declare their hatred for a certain member, they would almost certainly miss that person’s presence if they were no longer around.
People like having a foe – they may complain about a particular user, but very often deep down they enjoy the antagonism and see it as a ritual they look forward to taking part in.
Members give your community personality
A successful online community is made up of many different personalities. It is only natural that not all of them will get along. Very often you will notice people that tend to argue actually enjoy the banter. Eccentric and slightly irritating members can add personality to what may otherwise be a sterile community.
Before taking action against certain users, consider whether they may actually be benefiting your community.
Always think before you act
Of course, I am not saying that you should put up with abusive members. You should consider just how each member is impacting your community though, before you decide to take action against them.
Banning a user who gets people emotional and stirred up may actually damage your online community. Sometimes your most irritating members can be your most valuable.