How Brands Can Defeat Internet Trolls with Style & Grace
In the modern era of social media, everyone seems to have an opinion they are dying to share.
And how are they sharing those opinions? By posting and commenting on social media, of course. (has me wondering what happened to the mindset “If you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all”?)
This seems simple and innocent enough, and like it shouldn’t be a big deal.
However, not every opinion is warranted, or even pleasant.
In fact, most appear to be the opposite.
It’s often those irrational and typically hate-filled comments that become a big deal and need to be handled with care.
You are more than likely familiar with the people that make most of us weary to share anything online. You know those internet trolls.
Gone are the days when trolls were merely creatures lurking under bridges in children’s stories designed to scare us to the tone of the “boogie man.”
These “new” trolls have been around since the early days of the internet. The days when groups, discussion boards, and chat rooms were simply the beginning of internet trolling. It then evolved into YouTube comments that ranged from funny to vile and even downright sad, confirming with us that the internet hosts some of what seem like the worst people on the planet. Now, with dozens of social media platforms and millions of unsuspecting targets, the trolls and their antics appear to be at an all-time high.
What is an Internet Troll?
Not entirely sure what classifies someone as an internet troll?
To put it simply, internet trolls are people who hide behind their screens (computers, tablets, smartphones) while trying to elicit hurt feelings and anger from other people.
Many of their comments are meant as an attack and are otherwise uncalled for.
Basically, they are rude for the sake of being rude. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong; they will hide behind the anonymity of social media. Because they can.
And let’s not confuse internet trolls with customers who simply aren’t happy — there’s a big difference.
Real customer feedback — good or bad — is valuable in many ways. Pointless, mean-spirited, and/or ridiculous trolling is anything but.
So, what’s a business owner to do when their tweets or YouTube videos fall victim to internet trolls?
4 Ways for Business Owners to Handle Internet Trolls
Internet trolls seem to come out of the woodwork, even when the post is geared towards a specific demographic, a business update, or something as innocent as a dog video.
Business owners that choose to respond should be prepared that the user hiding behind their screen may try to engage in a battle of words.
1. Respond with Kindness
It feels obvious, but kindness can go a long way.
The person(s) leaving negative remarks might not expect a kind response, but it’s always fun to “kill with kindness” too.
While you can’t save everyone, you can certainly catch someone off guard by offering a positive comment or remark — rather than feeding into the negativity.
So, rather than fighting fire with fire, put a spin on the emotion and try to create something positive.
Take what Patton Oswalt said when he turned the tables on a troll of his own.
2. Enlist the Help of Moderators
Serious trolling issues are not something that can be handled by one person — especially if the situation spans multiple social channels and blog posts.
Adding a moderator to a team roster can help alleviate some of the troll-induced stress while also taking work off of a team member’s plate.
The moderator should be expected to vet comments while creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere.
If a company does not have guidelines currently in place as a resource for a moderator, there are tools out there to help manage every platform. But creating those guidelines is always going to be a good idea, especially since trolling is only becoming more prevalent.
These guidelines, in theory, will let users know what sort of behavior is unacceptable and what could happen if the guidelines are violated (banned from the Business Page after the third offense, etc).
These options can be beneficial for business owners but could also potential limit real feedback.
3. Ignore Them
For some, it can be quite difficult to do, but ignoring an internet troll could be the best route.
What we need to remember is the M.O. of an internet troll: to get attention and a reaction.
This is especially true if they respond negatively to a positive response. They aren’t looking to be reasoned with, they are looking to argue for the sake of arguing.
Even though it can be difficult, sometimes the best thing to do is move on with your day and forget about the troll.
But beware of how this may look for the business from an outsider’s perspective, too.
4. Mute or Block People
The thing about social media platforms like Twitter is that users have the ability to mute or block others.
When all else fails and the user continues to troll your account, it’s OK to mute or block them.
Twitter will also allow you to mute notifications from people who you don’t follow, haven’t confirmed the email associated with their account, or have a new account (among other reasons).
While the user will still be able to respond to your tweet, you won’t see the notification.
If muting the internet troll is not enough, then it could be time to use the ultimate form of shutting them down: blocking the user from viewing the business’ profile altogether.
At the end of the day, pointless negativity or bullying is a waste of our time.
Even though I am a prolific user of social media, I personally do not engage with internet trolls. But I realize this can be easier said than done for business owners.
It can be a delicate balance between defending the digital footprint of your brand and realizing what isn’t a big deal and doesn’t need to be dealt with.
A combination of these tactics could be the best route, especially hiring someone who can maintain the digital presence for the brand so business operators can focus on other, more important aspects of the business.
No matter which route you take, remember that internet trolls will climb out from under any bridge at any time despite everyone’s best efforts.
If, at the end of the day, you still aren’t sure how to deal with internet trolls, or need some expert guidance from our social media gurus, let us know!