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Un-motivate your unhappy users

Imagine for a minute: You just bought a new widget from some dot com and had a problem. You log on to their website and look for an answer but can't find one. You see they have a support forum so you take the time to register and hope someone will help you...

Scenario one: Your question was answered by some random person you don't know and it looks like they even did a little research on your behalf and posted a link to a topic that already addresses your question and then welcomes you to the forum. How nice.

Scenario two: Your question was not answered, in fact the only replies you had were rather rude. Someone with a title of "Volunteer Moderator" replied telling you to use the search feature (how helpful), and a regular member just replies with a link.

The second scenario isn't the worst of all user experiences but it will work to illustrate my point. How willing are you to share your positive experience in the first scenario? Under the right circumstances and mood, you probably will. How likely are you to share your negative experience? If you are like most people, the odds are very high. You've heard it a hundred times before, make someone happy and they'll tell a friend, make someone unhappy and they'll tell the Web. Your happy users are mildly motivated, or not motivated at all to share your forum with anyone. Your unhappy users will go to great lengths to inform every one of your misdeeds.

In the case of scenario two, you have another element putting you at risk. A "volunteer moderator" might not be "staff" but they have status over other users. With any reputable title, you have to be sure that user is going to conduct themselves professionally and represent your forum well. If they don't, they are actively recruiting an army of very motivated unhappy users.

Take for example phpBB.com - phpBB.com was hacked in early February of 2009 by an individual belonging to a group that was very motivated and very unhappy with some staff at phpBB. The incident led to a lot of PR damage to phpBB for the breach (NOTE: the issue was with a third party system "PHPList" they used for managing their email lists, not the phpBB software itself) and the successful spreading of the hacker's unhappy experiences with the phpBB staff. One could only dream someone would put forth so much effort to spread positive experiences about your company. Sadly, that isn't likely. Unhappy people are motivated, content people are not.

Why there may not be a best way to improve your forum's image, the best way to not hurt it is to un-motivate your unhappy users. Simply put, don't give your users something to be passionately unhappy about.

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Link & description: Un-motivate your unhappy users - Motivation is bad when it is fueling negative comments about your forum. Un-motivate your unhappy users and protect your reputation.

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