Bullies exist in all walks of life, and with the creation of the world-wide-web 30 years ago, they can even exist in cyberspace. Some people either have nothing better to do with their time, or are just overly outspoken with their negative opinions. Social media trolls find pleasure in provoking others online by saying harsh and offensive things. Whether you’re an innocent high school student or the CEO of a big business, trolls can be upsetting. The primary goal of these trolls is to incite a reaction, just like your everyday real-life bully. They may try to make themselves known by leaving nasty, hurtful comments on an article on your website or maybe as a review on one of the products that you have displayed online.
Where are these trolls typically found, you may be wondering? Internet trolls can be found lurking anywhere people are present online and leaving comments or posting to the public. Whether that be social media, chat rooms, email groups, or even on blogs. Trolls will lurk where ever they can make the biggest negative impact on a person or businesses online presence.
Trolls can sometimes be hard to distinguish from an actual customer with sincere concerns or problems. There are a few key points that differentiate the two. Before jumping to conclusions about a negative comment or review, look closely at the context of what they are saying. Do they seem frustrated about the matter that they are expressing to you? Maybe they have a genuine complaint about a service or product that you offer, and just want some help or compensation for something that didn’t go according to plan. These kinds of comments more than likely are from genuine customers who are just facing an issue that they are hoping you can help resolve. On the other hand, if their comment sends off more of an angry, malicious vibe that seems to have the intention to rile up others who are following the thread of comments, then this may be the work of a troll. Trolls aren’t looking for any sort of resolution to their problem. Their only goal is to provoke a reaction. Whether that reaction comes from you, another representative of your company, or even a community member.
Now that you can identify a troll, knowing how to handle them is crucial. Before you even become touched by trolls, knowing that they are out there allows you to implement a sort of policy on your social media account or website. Just a simple set of rules or guidelines stating what you deem as acceptable behavior for posts or comments will allow you to separate genuine complaints from spam - ensure that your colleagues or representatives are aware of these rules. That way you can simply point out your policy when someone begins to fall beyond your set boundaries. Those who decide that they want to say rude, offensive things cannot take it personally when the rules are written out in plain English for them.
Trolls want attention. They thrive off of the reactions they get for their malicious behaviors. Don’t fuel their fire by feeding into it with an equally as rash or malicious response. Killing them with kindness is never a bad way to handle such a situation. If the troll is trying to expose you and your company with some false, or over exaggerated accusation, fight back with the truth, plain and simple. No need to fight fire with fire here. Just keep your side of the fence clean, and your community and audience will respect you all the more. Just state the facts and let the troll do with them what they will. However, if comments are abusive or spam, most social media platforms give you the options to block or report comments and accounts, so this is another way to ensure the trolls stay off your back.
Using humour to defuse the situation is also another way to handle an internet troll. Sometimes this is easier said than done but can prove to be very effective if the opportunity is right (making sure you have consent from your management, of course). Not only will your troll feel defeated or embarrassed even, but your audience may also laugh along with you, and applaud how well you handled the situation.
How a business talks to its audience online, trolls or not, says a lot about the business. Trolls come with the territory once you’ve brought your business to the internet and social media. It is just a fact of life, that not everyone will like everything or agree on everything. Opinions will always be voiced, some more maliciously than others. You do not have control over the words or reactions of others. You DO have control over how you chose to react to their cruel words. Don’t give the internet trolls the satisfaction of having pushed your buttons. Show your community who the bigger person in the situation is and keep your head held high. Report their actions if necessary, and block their account. Or, if you're the humorous type, give that technique a go.
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