Blowing away your community because all your members are idiots who say dumb stuff is very tempting but there a few reasons why you shouldn’t. Mainly because it could be a sign that you are doing a great job:
“for human groups, a few hundred seems to be an upper limit for a group size compatible with everyone’s knowing everybody. In our state society for instance, school principals are likely to know all their students by name if the school contains a few hundred children, but not if it contains a few thousand children. One reason why the organisation of human government tends to change from that of a tribe to that of a chiefdom in societies with more than a few hundred members is that the difficult issue of conflict resolution between strangers becomes increasingly acute in larger groups” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond 1997
It’s the same thing that happens in fast growing workplaces and popular cities- mo people, mo problems.
1. Law and order. Smaller tribes self regulate more easily due to social pressure and you don’t need to do much to calm down a little blog spat or tacky image post. As groups become larger and more anonymous (think big city versus small town), you may need more law and order and I hate to say it, rules in the form of community guidelines. A secondary login might help to keep anon posters down and put some real faces in the mix to humanise the community.
2. In the words of the great Tony Robbins, if there are weeds in your garden, pull them out. Don’t pretend there are no weeds and let the trolls take over but also, don’t freak out after a bad hit and blow away the branded Facebook page you spent three years cultivating. It might just be time to reassess your strategy, gear up some more people to help and think about how you can run your page for a larger audience. Identify and pull out the weeds, you may not need to nuke the whole rainforest.
3. Party in the comments. Jonah Peretti from Buzzfeed/ HuffPo discovered that people loved the crazy-sauce comments that appeared at the bottom of their stories. Depending on your community, you may want to leave some weird stuff in their for seasoning.
4. Talk to some other community managers at other workplaces and find out what they do. Sometimes, lobbing some feel-good content like iPad giveaways and free t-shirts can reset an angry mob. Just sharing your ideas and venting frustrations can make a big difference and you won't feel like you're doing a bad job all the time. I took a beaten down team to another company for a morning and they just sat and watched another online community team working. It made a huge difference to their confidence and showed them some new ways of managing prickly customers.
5. Reward the good behaviour. Welcome new members so the same people don’t get attention for stirring. Much like the small town/ big city thing, sometimes the founding members of a community can be demanding and expect special treatment. Look after them but don’t let them drag the community down by bringing up old stuff and family feuds from 1967 all the time. It’s important to keep growing and pruning is a part of that.