Wow, this week, I decided to set up a Facebook group, my driving vision behind this task was that I could build a group that gave a positive image of angling. The reason for this was that I have seen a lot of thuggish behavior, singling people out and personal attacks on the achievements of new anglers, female anglers and experienced anglers who just want to enjoy their sport! That was on Wednesday the 24th of July, today is Sunday the 28th of July and we are now a highly active group of more than 500 anglers which includes people sharing pics of their kids fishing, a higher (I think) than average engagement by female anglers and an incredibly positive vibe in general… Oh, but what a 4 days it has been! This is what I have learnt so far from running a fast-growing angling group on Facebook!
Thugs get jealous easy and nasty real fast!
So, there is a group out there, I’m not going to mention the name of the group because I would not sink so low as to give them any publicity… If you are a member, you shouldn’t be. The group is established, specifically, with the goal of belittling, degrading and humiliating each other under the guise of what they call ‘banter’. The dictionary definition of banter, according to Google is:
1.the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.
“there was much good-natured banter”
synonyms: repartee, raillery, ripostes, sallies, swordplay, quips, wisecracks, crosstalk, wordplay; More
1.exchange remarks in a good-humoured teasing way.
“the men bantered with the waitresses”
synonyms: joke, jest, pun, sally, quip; More
What the group in question engage in is Bullying, NOT banter!
As a UK based fishing group, I thought, that it was perfectly reasonable to not want pictures of dead fish on my group and when some, in my opinion, really quite gratuitous images of dead fish showed up from a foreign angler I politely explained that this was not the way we do things here. fair enough right? Apparently wrong! Unfortunately, the said person, on being temporarily muted whilst I explained the situation to him launched into a hateful barrage, calling me racist and hurling abusive sexual and violent remarks about my partner… good enough reason to ban him from my group I thought… apparently not!
Unfortunately, this vile person was a part of that hateful thug group I described previously. and the abuse really started then, images of my deceased father with vile comments, images of me… abuse hurled about the group, weirdly, threats about infiltrating my group and… in their words ‘taking it down’, direct messages from their group’s administrator threatening violence to me and, most shockingly of all, the deployment of an ex Angling Trust employee whom I knew to try and do their dirty work for them.
My reaction was admittedly over the top… I stopped letting people join my group, became paranoid about every single post that someone posted to the group and, in general… for a day or two, became really stressed by the whole situation… And then I realised:
This is the plague destroying OUR sport.
Fishing does not belong to them, to the thugs out there who would try to give it a bad name. They are the angling equivalence of football hooligans who, to make up for their own intellectual and social ineptitude, gather together in mindless hordes like zombies from a bad Hollywood ‘B’ movie. These people are NOT anglers, they are idiots who have managed to buy a fishing rod! The problem is that these ‘Yob’s with Rods’ are the public image that many think of when they think of angling. The public doesn’t think of the noble peaceful ‘Chris Yates’ type angler when they think about our sport, they think about the larger swilling foul language using idiots they see down their local park lake! How can we expect parents to get their kids into fishing when they see that?
A good social image is VITAL online.
The ultra hard-line and, I will admit, poor group managing that I engaged in over that couple of days when the abuse was happening (for all I know if could still be ongoing), meant that the phenomenal growth of my group slowed. That is sad, and I learnt some lessons from it which I will share below. However, I don’t regret the hard-line. Angling and anglers deserve a good public image, this is the primary building block which grows the popularity of a sport. Moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas must be confident when they spend a fortune on little Johnny’s or Jane’s fishing gear. They need to be confident that they are inducting him into a sport that will make him a better person because of the people she meets, not see him or her grow up as a thug and bully!
So, my group will go on, with an unwavering hard line on politeness and friendliness. Hopefully, to become (in the future) a resource where people can get involved in the community of angling. Because THAT is what we need to give back to angling, a community… and, if used correctly, that is what social media can do for the sport.
I have a background in using Facebook, through pages, to promote stuff… mostly angling and so I, naively, thought that it was the same routine when it came to building a Facebook group. I was wrong and the last few days have been a seriously steep learning curve.
Lesson 1: Facebook Group members do not like to be managed.
People don’t join Facebook groups to be told what to do, they don’t want to be managed, this should not be a dictatorship. Sure, rules and strict adherence to those rules is vital and your responsibility as a group founder, admin or moderator is to ensure that those rules are abided by but, at the same time, those rules should not be restrictive, overly complicated or enforced with the steel fist of a dictator… which brings me on to the next lesson:
Lesson 2: Don’t air your dirty laundry.
When I was undergoing some pretty heartbreaking abuse, I wanted to lash out, to tell everyone that I was being targeted simply because I had launched a successful group! So I posted a lengthy post on my group telling people about all the new rules that I would be applying because of the abuse and threats I was getting… This made people in my group uncomfortable and I even noticed a few leave! Some shared posts about my rants in other groups… it was a mess!!
Simply, this is what that ‘other group’ wanted… if you go into a home where the occupiers are arguing or ranting about something, you feel uncomfortable right? If someone is ranting and raving over some issue, why would you say ‘Oh, yeah… but look at this great fishing photo!’. You wouldn’t, you would hightail it out of there at your first opportunity and that’s exactly what some of my members did.
The solution? Make sure there are simple and clear rules, as few as possible and as unambiguous as possible. Then enforce those rules, without mentioning it, when people kick off… enforce those rules for them too, impartially and unemotionally… just let them go, there is no need for any of your other guests to even realise there are any disputes going on. I have already done untold damage in my group by not realising this sooner… if that damage will heal quickly, only time will tell! Just remember, you built a group for members, you need them to feel as comfortable and engaged as possible! People are, generally good in my opinion and experience, let them prove it to the world… Bringing me on to the next lesson!
Lesson 3: Some zombies are just normal people trying to fit in with the crowd!
The people that the administrator of the ‘other’ group threatened were infiltrating my group… yeah, sure, some of them have tried to cause trouble and been swiftly pruned out. At one point, I was obsessed with trying to get a list of every single member of the other group and make sure they couldn’t get into mine. Then a few conversations with people who are members of the ‘other’ group happened and I started to realise, maybe they aren’t ALL bad. Why do I care if they are a member of the other group right? If they don’t try to be disruptive, if they don’t insult anyone or break my rules… then they have just as much right to be a part of my group. Maybe, at some point, they will tire of being routinely insulted, decide my group is better and decide to jump ship entirely. I decided something which is fundamental to my last lesson… simply love everyone that decides to take part in your group until they break the rules and then, like you would a zombie, simply blow them away (by which I mean ban from the group, not literally hunt them down and blow them away!).
Final, and most important lesson: To rung a Facebook Group, you need to Relax!
Yeah, that’s the most important lesson to learn if trying to manage a fast-growing Facebook group. Relax! Allow people to be people and talk about what they want to. Establish strong rules that enable people to do that without fear of ridicule and then trust your members to get on with it.
** UPDATE ** the final ingredient!
Get good help, I was flailing in the wind… STILL after writing this blog…. At the point of once and for all quitting and writing a ‘Why I Finally Gave Up’ blog when an angler approached me who had extensive experience as admin of other groups. I won’t put his name in my blog because I don’t know if he would want me to but, if you go to the Facebook group, he’s the admin that isn’t me! This guy should be given a cape and a fancy mask, the group has settled down over night!! So, the final… and I’m starting to think most important ingredient is ACCEPT OFFERS OF HELP, especially when they come from experienced group administrators!
So, that’s it:
If the damage that I did to my own group does not bury me, I think I have done a pretty good job of going from 0 to 500 in just 4 days, hopefully the scars that my virtual meltdown caused will heal and more and more people will drift into the Facebook group, ultimately resulting in the fishing ‘Super Group’ that I’m hoping for, one that will spread a good image of what angling is all about!