Don’t Feed the Trolls

For social media community managers, comments from disgruntled customers or unhappy employees are sometimes a part of the “engagement” we have to manage and respond to.  But there’s another bad actor in the mix whose only purpose is to disrupt and incite anger, using your social media and online forums as their platform.

Jon Goldberg of Reputation Architects shared his thoughts and recommendations for dealing with trolls during a presentation at the recent PRSA Western District Conference.

By definition, a troll is “…a person who posts inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses or manipulating others’ perception.”

Or in another words a time-sucking, inappropriate jerk.

But how do you know that you are dealing with a troll and not your run-of-the-mill disgruntled customer?  You’re going to need to do a little homework.

Some of the warning signs that you’re dealing with a troll include:

  • Trolls don’t care about facts.  In a lot of cases, the more ridiculous the claims the more often you’ll see them posted.
  • Trolls have no creativity. The crazier the idea the more likely it is that they’ll just cut and paste (over and over again!).
  • Trolls will go off-topic, posting things that have nothing to do with your organization simply to distract and wreak havoc.
  • Trolls love when people can get angry and the angrier it gets the better.
  • Trolls think in absolutes.  Always and never are some of their favorite words.

What to do, what to do?

  • Trolls want the attention; it is why they are doing what they are doing. Don’t give in to the attention.  That’s why the most common advice is don’t feed the trolls.
  • Create a “no trolling” policy for your organization. This gives community managers the tools they need to respond to the unhappy and disgruntled while discouraging the destructive trolls.
  • Share the responsibility. Depending on the size of the organization you might have several community managers moderating your online platforms. That’s great but refer to the “no trolling” policy mentioned above. You’re all going to have to “sing from the same song sheet” in order to effectively disarm the troll.
  • Since trolls don’t care about facts and are not interested in a civilized dialogue, ask them to back up their comments. Knowing that they can’t might just push out of your comments.
  • On the off chance that you can change the direction of an online troll discussion, always act professionally and without anger, providing fact-based information. A kind word.  A funny pun. A cute meme.  You just never know what will take down a troll.

And if that doesn’t work?

While this option is time-consuming, it might be necessary to block, ban and/or report your troll if nothing else has worked. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and most other social media platforms give you the option to report a post for being abusive, among other options like unfollowing the person who posted it.

Leave it at work.

It is hard not to take it personally when the trolls start attacking. But that’s their goal.  Don’t let them win.

Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

Written by
at May 5, 2023

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