However, there’s always bad with the good. Some of those comments may also be negative, threatening, and derogatory toward your products, your brand, or your team. Some of the negativity may stem from unhappy customers. The smart thing is to contact them to acknowledge their dissatisfaction and work toward a solution.
The problem is that when you start replying, you find that one or two of those in your community spout more negativity. That’s when you’ll realize you’re dealing with trolls.
Once upon a time, a troll came from Scandinavian stories. These hostile creatures live under bridges or in forests or caves. Known for their trickery, trolls want to cause problems and conflict. They thrive on others’ pain and discomfort.
Combine the concept of a troll with a fishing term known as “trolling.” When a fisherman is trolling, he’s casting a line into the water to see if he can catch something.
Together, these ideas define the character and intent of online trolls. Hiding behind screens and cloaked in anonymity, trolls have enjoyed attacking people and baiting them into arguments since the dawn of the internet.
First, it was through newsgroups and forums. Then, they gained a wider audience with the arrival of social media. Now, they lurk in all areas of the web, including blogs, discussion forums, chat rooms, and email groups.
Trolls aren’t going away as long as these platforms openly enable people to share their opinions. Rather than focus on how to get them to disappear forever, your strategy as a business should be to create a plan to minimize their impact — and influence on your brand and audience.
Know the signs. You want to ensure that it’s a troll and not an unhappy customer. One deserves to be dealt with in a straightforward manner; the other warrants some nuance. After all, a truly disappointed customer who feels she’s been treated badly is even more dangerous — and rightfully so.
There are ways to tell the difference. A troll wants to be angry and will only fire back with inflammatory and derogatory statements. Trolls exaggerate everything that’s said and tend to make personal attacks or threaten. An unhappy customer only wants their grievances addressed and doesn’t get too unreasonable to deal with.
Monitor the conversations. To address negative press, even from trolls, you need to know what people say about your brand. Obviously, the internet is a big place, and you don’t have the time to check every platform around the clock. That’s why there are numerous social media monitoring tools available to do the work for you; they can provide alerts about conversations, mentions, and reviews.
Establish a community policy for your online presence. On your platforms, including your blog and social media profiles, you can create an official policy related to user behavior. By formally defining the rules for participating and commenting on your blog, forum, or profile, you have grounds to remove and block people who break these rules. It may even discourage trolls from joining your community. The Content Marketing Institute has a good example of this type of policy that you can adapt to fit your own community.
Respond thoughtfully with facts, not emotions. Your first thought might be to initially ignore the comments. But the better strategy is to address what you can, so the rest of your audience sees you’re on top of these issues. Focus on how you can insert facts and correct mistakes to counteract their nonsense. Stay calm and use a professional tone and respectful language. You don’t want to end up lowering yourself to the troll’s level and feed their love of drama. Other visitors will lose respect for you, which is the opposite of what you intended.
Don’t take it personally. Even if trolls are using language that verbally attacks you as the moderator, remember that they don’t know you — this isn’t personal. They behave this way with everyone they come across online. When you don’t take what a troll says personally, you eliminate his or her power.
Recognize when to stop. Most likely, you’re not going to win with trolls. Ignore or block them when you have attempted a resolution but have only received further abuse. Others who may be following your reactions can see you’ve made an effort — and that the other side hasn’t.
Focus energy on building a positive, inclusive community. Don’t let trolls distract you from your primary goal of developing an online community that’s engaging, positive, and supportive. Spend more time addressing the positive comments on your blog or profile. Your focus on the positive people in your community is more likely to attract like-minded individuals and discourage trolls who will go elsewhere to stir up trouble.
Trolls will continue to lurk in dark places. Don’t join them in their virtual caves. Instead, show your audience that you’re taking the high road and standing by your brand’s values.
Trolls might not only bother you on social media. They can post inflammatory comments anywhere online. You can only deal with them as best you can and produce the best multi-channel experience you’re able to. Find out how with “Multichannel Fluidity.”