Tuesday Feb 26, 2013

Hackers, Trolls and Troublemakers

trollAs brands on the social stage, we’re going to encounter hackers, trolls and troublemakers. They aren’t pleasant, but they’re not fatal. Our philosophy: if you’re going to play in the sandbox you can expect to get some sand in your socks. You can’t immerse in the public without running into these irritants. What you can do is manage them.


Brand hacking incidents have been all too frequent and public. Naturally, your first line of defense is enterprise level technology security solutions that leave little to chance.

But as long as there’s a human that can be tricked out of info, there’ll be hacks. People trust online friends, so messages from them with malicious links get clicked. A social engineering experiment by a major manufacturing firm ended up with 17 out of 20 users with access to confidential data giving usernames and passwords to an intruder.

After putting top-notch tech security in place (don’t scrimp on that), defense #2 is due diligence. Make sure you use your moderation tools to detect suspicious characters in your community who aim to use you to victimize other fans. Educate users to increase the caution level (though most won’t exactly get excited about social safety lessons).

The social nets are doing what they can. Facebook stopped trying to play “whack-a-mole” and switched to an offensive strategy of cease & desist letters, lawsuits, and reverse engineering so the culprits can be found and arrested if warranted.

Social that works for everyone revolves around trust. For brands, it’s imperative to foster and preserve that trust to get continued engagement and for initiatives like sCommerce to flourish.


Not nearly as likable as Hobbits. They’re usually slightly anarchic, attention-starved agitators. They live to post inflammatory comments that get a rise out of you. Sure it might be a brand’s natural PR instinct to jump in with both feet, but the standard best practice is to ignore them, thus imposing the nightmare of insignificance.

Some trolls are more persistent than others. Many are willing to kick it up to bullying and abuse. Once they cross that line, you can report them and perhaps get them banned from the platform completely. Some, most notably in the UK, have even been arrested. All social networks have abuse policies. Facebook makes it especially easy to block, hide and unfriend.

The customer may always be right, but trolls are not your customers, so feel neither pain nor guilt for deleting their comments. The real art for brands is using common sense to differentiate between a troll on the attack and a genuinely dissatisfied customer.


They aren’t trolls, but they do things that make for a less than pleasant experience for others in your community. Chief among them are those who would use your brand to relentlessly self-promote. It’s tacky, desperate, and usually boring. A fan that uses your Page to solicit followers or push their link is ignoring the codes of social conduct.

So are all-out spammers. If I’m on my favorite cookie’s Page, I probably don’t want to “ask you how you lost 50 lbs. in 2 days just by chewing bamboo shoots.”

Varying language issues aside, literacy is always nice. A post that can be understood by the community adds value. We shouldn’t have to struggle to deduce what a commenter is trying to say. Nor should we have to decipher cryptic tweets filled with 8 hashtags and alien symbols.

Some comments may indeed be about your company but are a mile off-topic from the post they’re under. Yes, you should address their concern, but either answer in one quick post or take the issue offline. Don’t let people steer conversations into a ditch.

Your job as host and emcee of your brand’s Page is to create as positive an experience as you can, an environment that keeps fans coming back and leads to valuable engagement. Be firm with those who risk tainting your social turf.

Photo: stock.xchng


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