Trolls – they give life to our legends and myths. They are considered strong, with huge noses and sharp teeth and they sometimes possess magic powers. Then, there are the DreamWork’s Trolls (colorful and cute with angelic singing voices) and wise little helpers from movies like Frozen. And, don’t forget about little neon-haired troll dolls many of us had as kids! But, to this day the internet trolls remain worst of all.
They’re not only dangerous but very real too. Their only wish is to inflict ridicule, pain, and humiliation to their targeted individual. They want to push buttons, poke wounds, and grind gears. And the more fuss they make, the more satisfied they become.
When left alone, these social media misfits will tarnish your reputation and brand. Thus, you’ll have to deal with them in the most delicate way possible! So, without further ado, here are some of the ways to manage this unfortunate but unavoidable situation appropriately.
#1: KIll Trolls With Kindness
As much as you try to ignore them, not take things personally (because they can tend to get very personal) and move on, it’s often not that easy. Still, the best way to deal with internet trolls is to be kind and agree to disagree.
Yes, you’ve heard that right. Just imagine the good old troll is sitting there at their computer, their popcorn in hand waiting for a negative or defensive response. Instead of fueling their addiction, you give them kindness in return. What happens? POP! Their ego is instantly deflated and they likely move onto their next target.
Seriously, as someone who does take things personally, I know it’s hard. But try to not argue with them and get into a flame war because that is what they want you to do! Just be kind and they will go away to bug someone else.
#2: Do Not Feed The (Internet) Trolls
This one is not that simple. I’ve heard various people say that you should never respond, and I have to disagree. Others say that you should always respond, but I’d have to disagree with that too. The truth is, some trolling comments simply don’t warrant a response, especially considering that’s exactly what they want. But if they don’t receive that negative social reward, then their motivation to engage in this behavior will likely diminish. Deny them the pleasure of any reaction, and they’ll probably leave you alone.
But what if they are damaging your personal brand and your reputation?
Online creators, including journalists, have often spoken out against the “don’t feed the trolls” axiom, particularly people who have experienced trolling themselves. And, it’s easy to understand the frustration. After all, why should they have to consider their behavior so carefully when they’re the targets? Why should they have to tread lightly when all they wanted to do was be online?
So it is hard to pick a blanket answer. It depends on the situation. In some instances, it’s beneficial to expose internet trolls, especially if they’re spreading lies. In other situations – including many instances of hate speech – it’s likely best for the target to just block and move on.
#3: Whack-a-troll: Write an Internet Troll-Protection Policy
One way to take control of what’s written about you is to present your online self on your own terms – on your own website or blog. You can literally write the rules of engagement on your own site. An effective anti-harassment comment policy includes:
- barring harassing comments
- requiring user identities
- reserving the right to remove and block harassing comments, and
- prohibiting off-topic rants, user identity theft, threats, or hate speech.
As far as social platforms go, most of them have their own community policies for being respectful and avoiding unnecessary fights and arguments. You can report any abuse directly to the social media platform itself. If there is a pattern of abuse, or if the abuse is so egregious, the social media platform might decide to protect you by banning the user or helping you “block” the user from seeing your social media profile.
#4: Troll The Trolls (With Humor)
Easy to say. Harder to do.
Done well, humor can humanize your brand and diffuse a situation.
Take note, however, that this strategy can potentially backfire if your response is not witty enough and you sound just like another troll.
If you succeed though, it is likely that you can earn a lot of points and even boost your social engagement.
For proper roasting, you also need to take care not to personally attack anyone or get too much drawn into an argument. It’s still about rising above whatever arguments that the troll is trying to start.
#5: Address Legitimate Complaints
There are sometimes legitimate complaints behind inflammatory posts or content. In these cases, you need to take a hard look internally and fix the issues that have been identified. Some honest action that accepts responsibility and strives to correct the problem can pay dividends for a brand’s image. Honesty and the act of taking responsibility is sometimes the best defense.
If the online troll is really just a customer complaining, know the difference and listen. Sometimes people just want to be heard. Hear them, try to help, and they’ll almost always thank you publicly.
#6: Respond With Facts (And Always Stay Classy)
If someone has said something about you that is inaccurate or unfair, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to offer facts to support your argument that their claim is false. If you decide to respond, avoid emotionally defensive or charged messages. You don’t want to encourage further internet trolling behaviors. Limit yourself to respond solely with facts.
Answer questions with facts about your service or product and any customer service policies and guarantees that you and your brand offer. If a comment contains information about you that is inaccurate or incorrect, play an active role in correcting it. Frame it as: “Thank you, but the more accurate information is…”
Remember that their behavior is more about their own problems than anything to do with you. They most likely behave the same way on other people’s social media accounts and it’s a reflection of their own envy or insecurity.
Social media is a powerful tool where individuals can share their unfiltered opinions about brands and people, both positive and negative. But sometimes those opinions can stray from the constructive and lean toward the rude, outrageous, or simply incorrect.
In other words, there is one simple fact you need to understand – and it’s best summed up in the immortal poetry of Taylor Swift: Haters gonna hate.
What’s important is that in an age when digital confrontation and Twitter feuds are common, social media managers need to respond to these negative commenters in a manner that won’t tarnish their reputations.
Businesses today need to be on the Internet, period. The same goes for people that care about their personal brand and want to develop it further. So, while you can’t avoid the dreaded Internet haters and trolls, you can be wise and careful in handling them. That way, you won’t let them damage your business or your personal brand.