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Dealing with Online Trolls

An online troll is someone who uses social media to post harmful, purposefully controversial, and defamatory comments with the intent of provoking a response from others. In this article we will take a look at dealing with online trolls.

A troll could be one of your followers, like a customer, or someone completely random. Protecting your brand against trolls can seem like a daunting task, but learning how to correctly identify and react to them will become an essential technique for managing your social media.

First, it’s important to distinguish the difference between an upset customer and an internet troll. While both appear angry and demand acknowledgment, an upset customer usually just wants to vent about a negative experience with your brand. By reaching out to this customer and listening to them, you have the opportunity to resolve their issue and maintain excellent customer service practices. A troll, however, will not respond to logic or reason. Their messages will be extreme and exaggerated, often with personal attacks unrelated to your brand. An angry customer is likely to provide some veiled constructive criticism within their complaint, but a troll will make random, personal attacks about anything they can. Knowing the difference between an unhappy customer and a troll can help you decide how to act when receiving these social media posts/messages.

A dissatisfied customer could potentially spiral into a troll by repeatedly posting about your brand in a negative way. If you verify that this person is indeed a customer who has a legitimate complaint, it is best to contact them directly to allow them to voice their concern. While many brands use social media pages to provide customer service, it can be best to engage these upset customers outside of social media to fully handle an issue. Most trolls would never say the things they post online via phone call or in person, so switching the form of communication might diffuse a situation more quickly than messaging back and forth online. If the negative posts from this customer continue (and begin to contain aggressive and sinister messages), further action may be needed to stop this troll.

It’s likely that you will encounter an internet troll at some point, but a few good practices can help you fend off a majority of trolls. First, create a policy for your social media communities that includes acceptable behavior for commenting, sharing, and posting on your pages. This, paired with the platforms’ individual policies, will outline clear expectations for your brand’s social media etiquette. It is also beneficial to have a designated social media manager or moderator to continuously monitor your pages and quickly deal with online trolls. They will be able to determine whether a situation involves a troll or a dissatisfied customer and can swiftly provide customer service if needed.

How you respond to trolls can drastically affect your brand’s reputation. The easiest method is to do…nothing! Trolls feed on attention and ultimately want to receive a response from you so they can continue to engage you in their nonsense. By ignoring these spam messages, you avoid putting your brand in a never-ending back-and-forth with the trolls.

If you feel that a response is absolutely necessary, be prepared to reply in a calm manner with facts, instead of emotion. Some brands choose to respond to trolls with humor, which can be a tactic for addressing their ridiculous and outlandish claims in a way that shows that your brand doesn’t take itself too seriously. While the troll’s messages may be hurtful to you personally, your followers will be watching to see how you choose to handle the situation. If the messages become threatening or contain hate speech, it is best to ban or block the troll that is harassing you. Check out the policies of each social media platform you use for info on how to report abuse and/or block accounts. You might be tempted to simply delete the posts and messages of a troll completely. This could be a quick fix, but it will surely be temporary. Deleting the posts of an upset customer shows poor customer service and will not make their problem go away. This could result in the customer posting negative reviews of your brand online, which can damage your reputation. Deleting the posts of a troll will just give them the motivation to continue to harass you, possibly more than if you ignored their messages. It is likely that your current customers and other businesses that have interacted with your brand will back you up when a troll tries to torment you. Receiving these positive, authentic posts will show future customers that the negative nonsense from trolls has no merit and doesn’t reflect the values of your brand. This is why it is so important to create a positive brand culture, both in-person and online through social media.

No one knows exactly why online trolls choose to post what they do, but it’s inevitable that you will have to deal with one at some point. Whether it’s an angry customer wanting to vent or a random troll, how you handle the situation is crucial. Solving customer issues and taking action against trolls will show your customers the integrity of your brand and the type of community you are cultivating through your online presence. In any situation, always remember to think before you post, and take further action if you feel it’s necessary.

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