Dealing With Social Media Trolls: Time to Get Tough?

Mike_Velocity
Mike McGrail Managing Director, Velocity Digital

Posted on August 7th 2013

Dealing With Social Media Trolls: Time to Get Tough?

The social web is a beautiful thing, it brings so much to so many of us, from new friends to vital information. It can be massively important, but oh so frivolous at the same time.  But it isn't all fluffy little bunnies out there, especially when it comes to brands and their use of social media.

The Trolls Cometh

When a brand/business/organisation does something wrong, the fallout can often extend way beyond the 'real-life'. Negativity spills out across the web on forums, Twitter, Facebook and so on. It can be a real nightmare to deal with and even when the correct processes have been followed, there can still be people who will not let the issue go and carry on baiting and attacking the business in question. Often they aren't even customers of said business. You can class these people as trolls. What are the habits, activities and tell-tale signs of a troll?

1 - The ability to post across social platforms at an incredible frequency - one that would tell you that they have no job (or life) or a clueless boss

2 - An often brutal use of harsh language and personal attacks on those behind the social media accounts

3 - A lack of will to listen to any reasoning or solutions to the problem

4 - No personal picture in their profile images

5 - Bad breath, poor fashion sense, multiple failed relationships and zero ability to communicate in the real world Via http://www.flickr.com/photos/kewl/ (creative commons)Don't feed the trolls

When the social media heat is on, you have a responsibility to communicate with those using social media to convey their issues etc, however this can only go so far. You must try your hardest to fix the issue, converse with those who put genuine questions to you and seek to help them as much as possible. Be seen to be helpful and to be trying very hard to put things right - you'll see things improving.

When a pack of trolls come hunting, don't feel the need to answer them. This may sound crazy, but once you engage with them, the floodgates will open. They are baiting you into an argument. It can very easily get to a point where you are spending more time battling trolls than serving genuine customers. This helps nobody other then the sad people hiding behind their keyboards. It can be hard to ignore, and it will make you angry and frustrated, but don't rise to the bait. Never stoop to their level. Not their nasty, low-intelligence level, but perhaps it is time for a change?

Social media has changed behaviour expectations

If somebody repeatedly came into a retail store, using harsh language and abusing the staff, what would happen? Customers in the store may step in and stand-up to the abuser. This can happen on social, when non-trolls interject and tell the trolls to 'jog on', however those brave souls are often pounced on by trolls and righty flee. What is more likely is that store security would eject them from the premises or even involve the police. These actions are taken in response to socially unacceptable behaviour. So why should brands put up with it on social media? It is time to get tough? Fight back in a dignified way? Yes, more support is needed from the platforms (to protect individuals, not just brans of course), but why should brands put up with this sort of abuse, just to conform to the idealistic social media approach of 'being nice'. Fight fire with fire? Or is that too dangerous?

Mike_Velocity

Mike McGrail

Managing Director, Velocity Digital

I'm Mike McGrail, founder of UK based digital marketing and communications consultancy, Velocity Digital. We offer social media, content and digital marketing services, with a focus on measurability at all times. Follow me on Twitter and Google Plus.

 

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Comments

I think a good rule of thumb is to always "be kinder than necessary." While this may be tough at times, you do have the advantage of not being face-to-face, so taking a deep breath, a coffee break or a quick walk is always an option before responding. Plus being (overly) nice will get you a lot farther than fueling the fire. 

“Do not feed the troll” is a major rule of the internet, especially in social media. Nothing is more simplified than that. They feed on your reactions and comments. A troll is different from an unsatisfied customer. What they do has no real motive but to spark flame wars and unnecessary arguments that the issue ends up being about Hitler for some reason. You do not fight with them, you do not argue with them, the best way is to just ignore. When nobody notices their presence, they just leave.

I definitely agree that going silent as a brand can stop the troll attacks. As an added benefit, brand advocates often step in and speak up on behalf of the company. You can't buy publicity like that. However, there are times when the trolls need to be put in their place. That typically requires a personal and private conversation, however. A public response will ususally generate even more unwanted attention. 

Great article!