Why is it that our society has come to expect sports fans to behave badly…regardless of whether their team wins or loses?!? I go through the range of emotions of disappointed, disgusted and embarrassed for the cities and teams where this happens.

The latest poster child is the city of Vancouver after their beloved Canucks lost in the 7th game of the 2011 NHL Finals (and you can see more pictures here):

Fans behaving badly after Vancouver Canucks lose in NHL finalsNot to shine the spotlight just on Vancouver, we have seen plenty of coverage around riots for winning/losing basketball, football and soccer teams. Country tensions even escalate during soccer matches. How did our society reach this “almost accepted and expected” behavior? Remember when sports were often a substitute for wide-scale war? Now Wikipedia records the following:

Violence in sports involves crossing the line between fair competition and intentional aggressive violence. Athletes, coaches, fans, and parents sometimes unleash violent behaviour on people or property, in misguided shows of loyalty, dominance, anger, or celebration. Rioting or hooliganism are common and ongoing problems at national and international sporting contests.

We have all experienced bad behavior from fans/friends/followers (3Fs) in social media, also. Hopefully, it is a 2nd hand experience and we are not embarrassed by our own 3Fs. For example, I frequently give demonstrations for our Social Media Monitoring tool: Pulse Analytics. Prior to a demo, I like to preview demo paths that allow me to identify great content for the client without causing embarrassment for me or the client. I have used Pulse to find outstanding amateur videos on YouTube that would act as great, unrehearsed product testimonials for a brand…yet somebody will decide to drop F-Bombs in the comments! I have the same thing happen when I want to include sports videos in my blog. I find the ideal video to illustrate my point, and somebody decided to exercise their sailor-speak in the comments. I even had to pass over great Wile E. Coyote videos because of the language in the comment section!! Who curses about Looney Tunes cartoons?!?

How about when a friend betrays your trust by using inappropriate material on your Facebook wall or fan page? Or they mention you in a tweet that includes foul language. Or they decide to go off on a profanity-laced tangent in the comment section of your YouTube video of sweet baby Johnny playing with a Buzz Lightyear toy?

Regardless of whether you are maintaining a company Facebook fan page, YouTube channel or Twitter ID…or simply have a personal page where you are keeping the rating “PG” because of a mixed audience or personal preference…wouldn’t it be great if your 3Fs either shared your views or at least disagreed courteously? I am sure the Canucks players wanted their fans to share in their disappointment but not to the extent that the reaction became malicious and dangerous.

I generally try my best to “vet out” those 3Fs by reviewing their Facebook wall or tweets. I’ll then generally excuse the first transgression; however, I’m quick to unfollow/unfriend if they cannot observe socially acceptable language boundaries. Personal reputation and “squeaky-clean brand image” are too important to compromise because of someone’s lack of self-control.

So what do you do when your Social Media fans/friends/followers behave badly? And how do you mitigate the risk? Let’s discuss…