One of the biggest deterrents that new business owners site for not wanting to join social media as part of their marketing plan is handling negative comments. This head in the sand approach ignores the people referred to as 'internet trolls.' These are the web users who seem to make comments on your social media platforms explicitly to get a rise out of you, stir up controversy, or just be belligerent.
Dealing with these trolls is a reality we all must face at some point. But how? Ignore? Delete the comments? Be rude back? I'll outline what you can do to handle your trolls on Twitter so that your business builds trust online with its true fans, looks professional, and properly identifies the problem.
Ditch the word troll and properly identify the problem
Everyone has a different definition for trolling, but what the person is actually doing can be clearly defined. Determining what it is they are doing will guide you further on how to deal with them.
From here on out, realize I only use the word 'troll' as the common vernacular. Your goal should be to look at the behaviour of your problem Twitter followers and determine what it is they are doing. Always saying 'oh, that person's a troll' could potentially lead to you dismissing people with legitimate concerns.
To give examples, someone who tweets "Imma come to yr store and go all Ted Williams on your staff with a basball bat. #hittin400" is not a troll. This person is a threat who should be reported to the police. Someone who tweets "OMG yr face is so ugly and I hate looking at you. #plasticsurgery" is not a threat, they're an annoyance who should be ignored or blocked.
Someone who tweetss "You guyz f'ing suck BIG time. I dint get mah new toyz I ordered. #terriblecompany" is someone with a complaint made in anger. Dealing with negative comments is different than trolling, here are some steps to take when dealing with negative tweets.
Try to consider the emotion on their end
Sometimes a troll isn't a troll at all, they're just a person who is a little too excited or passionate. You want excitement and passion on your social media accounts. What could have happened, and often does, is you have said something that makes them feel like you have trolled them first.
You will need to assess whether or not this is a matter of two differing opinions needing to talk and come to a resolution - in a reasoned and well mannered way.
No one says that you have to engage with abusers immediately
Just because someone has said something considering trolling doesn't mean that you have to respond. It is going to be up to your better judgement to figure out just what it is they're trying to do, and we'll look at that later.
Your first step when you come across a negative comment is always to take a step back. Your first reaction is always going to be an emotional and incorrect reaction. I can't tell you how many times I've had needlessly rude comments thrown at me, allowed myself to get worked up with a perfect (and pointless) comment ready, only to back off and think the better of it.
Freedom of speech doesn't apply to private companies
Blocking and deleting comments has no relation to freedom of speech. That is a law set up to block government censorship in the public space. You 'own' your social media page, would you let someone come into your store to yell obscenities repeatedly? No!
Censoring someone on your social media page isn't taking away their right to speak on their soapbox, it's taking away their right to speak on YOUR soapbox. See the difference?
A bully is a bully is a bully
Most bullies in real life act the way they do because they feel like they are denied something, or that they are missing out on something they want. Did your company make a mistake and not serve them well? Did they not get a service that they feel they paid for? If this is the case it is time to take the discussion offline or to a DM, as outlined in the article I mentioned previously about dealing with negative Twitter comments.
If they're just plain bullies who target people at random on a routine basis, it is definitely time to block them.
Online trolls and the Twitter mute button
I'm going to advise businesses to be cautious with the new Twitter mute button. Today's belligerent Twitter user may calm down tomorrow and bring a well reasoned complaint to you. If you just hit the mute button right away you may miss out on their legitimate concerns and cause even greater anger on their part.
This is where it's important to know when you should actually block someone, and have them know it as they'll be told, or ignore them but monitor their continued tweets. The Twitter mute button could very well be dangerous to the credibility of your Twitter account if used as a knee jerk reaction.
For further advice on how to conduct yourself as a business on Twitter, check out my own guide to Twitter Hashtag use for business. It goes from the basics, to the advanced tactics you'll need to be successful and gain real fans. As you gain those fans, negative comments will happen, be prepared and deal with them in the way that I have outlined above.
(internet troll / shutterstock)