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What is the best way to handle a user that appears to be a shill for a company? My community is based around cars and it frequently has a user appear in conversations saying how "X company is awesome because of Y". It's not spam, because they aren't posting links products. It's not really trolling because they aren't attacking anyone. But, if anyone even mentions company X, this user will be there within hours explaining why Company X king of the world, often with some news article or press release backing them up.

How should this type of user be handled from the perspective of a community member? The administration doesn't seem to mind that much - at least publicly.

  • ...and what if someone tells of some particularly unpleasant experiences with company X? – SF. Nov 7 '14 at 15:30
  • you keep referring to this user as "they". Is it a sock puppet problem too? – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Nov 13 '14 at 18:45
  • Delete anything that's off-topic too much. – bjb568 Dec 3 '14 at 2:34
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Contact the user directly and ask what's up, you can quite bluntly ask them if they work for the company.

  • if they confirm: tell them that you don't appreciate the behaviour and that they should disclose their affiliation in their posts (and profile)
  • if they deny: tell them that their behaviour makes it look like they are and that they'll probably enjoy a better reputation if they change :)

Frame it positively, assume that they are nice people and that you both want to improve your community.

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5

To me even if there are no links to the company website it still smells like spam and were it to occur on a site I administered it would be deleted very quickly. If the user persisted in such posts then their account would be quickly suspended or even deleted.

Posts like this don't add any value to your site. Your users will be aware of company "X" if it is relevant to what they post so the last thing they need is an advertisement.

You need to have clear rules over promotional material:

  1. Users should declare affiliations to sites/products in their profiles and whenever they post such material.
  2. Anything they post should be relevant to the topic at hand.
  3. Users should not exclusively post promotional material. They should be using the site as any other user would - answering other topics not related to the site/company as well.

With clear rules you are on more solid ground when it comes to sanctions on the user for posting spam. They can't say that it's not against the rules.

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5

SPAM doesn't have to be promoting a specific product. You don't have to be pushing a particular link or product to be promotional. It is still deceptive brand promotion and isn't constructive.

Explain to them that it is expected that people's contributions be independent and productive and that their posts appear to not be either. If they aren't constructively contributing to the community, but only adding noise, remove them.

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