Considering that billions of people now use the Internet, it is only natural that Web users cannot easily be pigeonholed into a single “type” and not all Web users offer a positive interactive experience. As described in an infographic from online marketing technology provider Flowtown, there are at least seven different “faces” of potentially negative Internet users you are likely to encounter.

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Faces of Web, Parts 1-7

The infographic warns that “the Web is a menagerie of personalities, personas and psychos” that online marketers will encounter. Following is a brief summary of the seven Internet faces Flowtown says are waiting “deep (in) the dark heart of the Internet.”

  • Politico -- Easy to spot due to their timelines “filled with reposted headlines and copy-pasted political speeches,” Flowtown says Politicos tend to “hibernate” once a favorite cause is no longer a hot topic of conversation. Flowtown advises that Politcos can be found in online locations such as Politico (naturally) and Gawker, and to avoid engaging them or liking their status updates.
  • Lurker -- Lurkers like to read and follow online discussions and chat threads without participating or directly making themselves known. Flowtown says Lurkers are typically found in the “nOOb (new Web users with little understanding of how to interact) subgroup.” Flowtown also advises to avoid engaging Lurkers, who can be found anywhere online, and cautioned they can turn into Trolls (see below).
  • Fact-Finder -- These Internet users enjoy finding obscure facts on Wikipedia and Google. They congregate in online locales such as Wikipedia, Google Search and Quora and Flowtown recommends never questioning the validity of their facts.
  • Troll -- Trolls enjoy making inflammatory online remarks and are immune to logical arguments and insults as they feed off negative reaction. They hang out in online places like social media, comment threads and 4chan and it is recommended to not feed them (i.e., respond to their comments).
  • Meme Machine -- Meme Machines feel the need to include a reaction GIF or meme in all online communications. They prefer constant solitude, hang out in spots such as Reddit, 4Chan, Imgur and Tumblr, and have potential to “explode into Meta- Memes.”
  • Critic -- Critics offer negative opinions on other people’s Web posts, pictures, etc. without being asked and “enjoy a good black turtleneck and monocle.” They can be found in locations such as comment threads, Reddit and Yelp and Flowtown urges those who encounter them to “never poke fun at a critic’s monocle.”
  • Spambot -- These automated distributors of marketing messages are among the “most prolific” Web users and frequent comment threads, Google search results and AIM. Direct eye contact should be avoided. 

Community Influencers Exist

Although obviously tongue-in-cheek, the Flowtown infographic does offer some genuine insight into the dynamics of online interaction. An entry on the UK social media blog The Wall uses the infographic to illustrate a broader point about the real phenomenon of “community influencers” in online forums.

After reviewing the infographic, Blogger Eoghan O’Neill of Ipsos MORI states “They’re a horrible social media cliché, but it seems to me that ‘community influencers’ (people who take the lead on a broad range of topics in a forum) really do exist.” O’Neill also points out that forum users generally take a “fierce sense of identity” in the perceived superiority of their forum compared to other forums on similar topics, form into cliques, give respect for regular participation as well as for specialist knowledge and often devolve into arguments and bitterness.

Community Management Tames Social Media

The existence of these unsavory Web “faces,” coupled with the existence of community influencers who can potentially be leveraged to help control social communities built around a brand or product category, reinforces the need for community management. As described in a recent e-book from Eloqua, a community manager acts as a buffer between a company and its customers, and performs many tasks including fielding complaints and addressing external issues with internal solutions. By delving deep into social media “chatter” to retrieve valuable data, the community manager uncovers valuable information no other employee or department otherwise has access to.

As a result, the community manager can notify marketing executives as soon as any negative trends develop, gather other appropriate stakeholders, help drive the creation of a response plan, and then serve as a direct responder to customer concerns and complaints, thus diffusing what could otherwise have proven to be a disastrous and embarrassing PR gaffe. In addition, the community manager can help separate influential customers from “cranks” or non-influential customers and also notify customers when a complaint has been resolved.