5 ways to tackle online trolls

Some people simply want to get your goat on Facebook, on your blog, and in other comment sections on the Web. If you’re going to engage them, keep your wits.


Trolls have been around for centuries. In Norse mythology, trolls were magical creatures who lived in caves. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, trolls were evil and crude. In the 1960s (and ever since), trolls were cute, little, plastic dolls with bright, neon-color hair. These days, trolls live on the Internet, leaving crude comments. Internet tolls leave a destructive trail of infuriating online comments, everywhere from Yelp reviews to company Facebook pages. They’re everywhere. So how do you, as a social media community manager, deal with them? Do you respond? Do you ignore them? If you’re familiar with troll mythology, you might be tempted to lure them out of their cave into sunlight so they’ll turn to stone, but we don’t live in Middle Earth. Trolls live (largely) on the Internet, hiding behind a computer screen, leaving bad comments, and being, for lack of better words, real pains. So, what do you do? Try these banishment techniques: 1. Engage them, but be smart. Respond to the troll; after all, for most the objective is to get a reaction from you. So give them what they want: your attention. Comment back. Be smart about the conversation: Engage, but don’t feed the troll. If it doesn’t feel right, do not proceed. You can tell the difference between someone who’s leaving a bad comment out of frustration and a troll who just wants to make your life miserable. If you engage with an actual troll who is just looking for trouble, say your piece and politely exit the conversation. There is no point in engaging with someone who won’t listen. 2. Edit yourself. Trolls can get your blood boiling. A bad comment will be infuriating, and you’ll want to respond in the heat of the moment. Don’t. Think about what you’re going to say before you type it. You might want to respond with a big “screw you” or write out a long excuse when first reading a bad comment, but don’t. Be mindful of the words you use, your grammar, and the content, because few things will fuel a troll more than the misuse of there, their, or they’re. 3. Be witty. Don’t be dry when engaging with trolls. Add a sense of humor and wit to your response. If you want to get some laughs, respond with a meme or a gif. Often the best response to a bad comment can be a gif of a “Kanye shrug.” If the troll is a repeat offender, use the “overly attached girlfriend” meme to poke fun of their constant posting. 4. Be the bigger person. Be polite; don’t stoop to their level. Avoid being vulgar or rude, because that is not the image you want for your company. Engage and be witty, but don’t cross the line to where you now become a troll. It can be an easy, tempting road to go down, but stay mindful of the image you want to portray. You don’t want to be that company that has an embarrassing sparring match with a troll on Facebook, only for someone to take a screenshot and share it throughout the Web. 5. Don’t take it personally. It’s a simple tip, but probably the hardest. If you’re moderating a social media platform, remember that these trolls aren’t attacking you personally; they’re attacking this perceived image they have of you and your company—and maybe that’s just part of their ever-worsening day or week. There are lots of factors that go into why someone leaves a bad comment, and sometimes none of them has to do with you or your company. They’re projecting their anger and hatred in your direction. Bonus tip: Be Drake Bell, not Amy’s Baking Company. A great example of how to deal with trolls is singer/actor Drake Bell’s use of Twitter. Bell is one of the best in the business when it comes to dealing with trolls. He engages them and often responds to their death threats and slander, but throughout it all he remains witty and doesn’t seem to take it personally. Bell even invited Justin Bieber fans who were threatening him while on a flight to Los Angeles to meet him at LAX, giving out his terminal and flight details—essentially calling their bluff. A few Beliebers showed up, but be stayed polite, even taking pictures with those who asked. An example of what not to do is Amy’s Baking Company, which after appearing on the TV show “Kitchen Nightmares,” did everything wrong when engaging with commenters. It truly was a nightmare. The chef took it all too personally and let it affect her work and business. The owners didn’t edit themselves; they used profanity against their customers and responded to comments in all caps. (Side tip: Never write in all caps, ever.) Their engagement was unnecessarily rude. They fed the trolls, and soon everything spiraled into a PR nightmare for the business. Diana Martinez is a public relations and social media specialist at Supercool Creative. A version of this story originally appeared on the agency’s blog. (Image via)

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