Preventing Community Backlash
11/2/2011 8:23 AM
Every community manager dreams that their community will be all sunshine and roses. However, that is rarely the case. Every player always has an opinion. When the community manager shares information, no one person consistently shares the same opinion on the topics. Everyone enjoys their game or community with various degrees of passion. Creating change can cause positive or negative feedback response. The result can cause a feeding frenzy for firestorm that can unleash hell on the community. Everyone wants their opinion to matter and to be heard. Its up to the community manager to convey the information in the most positive way.
Community Managers are the voice of the people or your community and a messenger of the company they work for. They are tasked with providing news and timely updates on changes for the company to the community. The front lines can be a dangerous place if one has little experience in dealing with people. A community manager should always plan for the worst and hope for the best when dropping any planned changes on a community. Communities rarely react well to change.
There are two ways to go about informing the communities of changes. Preemptive Change Notifications provides prior notice to the community ahead of the changes so they can plan accordingly. Reactive Change Notifications is where the community manager waits until issues to arise to provide any information.
These are two common ways I seen Community Managers explain changes:
A letter to the players explaining the upcoming changes (Preemptive Change)
Top secret stealth changes that take time for the player base to discover. (Reactive Change)
Each of the above methods can have positive and negative outcomes with in the community. In a letter to the players explaining the changes, a community manager has the ability to type a message detailing why the changes were necessary. Honesty goes a long way within all communities. The temperature of the changes can be gauged by the community response(s). If the community overwhelmingly disagrees with the letter. The community manager might be able to inform their company to revert the planned changes or use alternative methods of achieving the same goals.
However, the top secret stealth changes can cause a huge backlash. The community will feel your trying to be sneaky and under value them as a customer. Sometimes this method is necessary. The change is can be large or small but nevertheless, it was recognizable. There are times where these aren’t considered negotiable or will happen regardless of the response. A company needs to achieve balance in the community where a player is sometimes trying to gain an advantage. The community manager may apologize in a future letter to the players and all will be forgotten until the next time.
Companies have been known to make some grave mistakes in changing their games causing a mass exodus of its player base. The community manager can only do so much to keep the community together and spread any message in a positive way. Community managers have a hard job. They are always stuck between a community of players that they love and a company they enjoy working for. It is always important to remember to be honest with the player base and build up a level a trust.
Have you ever been part of a game community that has had changes happen to their game that resulted in a huge community backlash? Please explain what happened.