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Dealing with jerks, bullies and trolls on social media
April 29, 2019 | Inga Rundquist

Haters gonna hate, trolls gonna troll!

Online jerks, bullies and trolls are everywhere. They rear their ugly heads in blog comment sections, hijack comment threads on Facebook and Instagram and run wild on Twitter.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk about how to deal with these haters at the annual PR Network of the Quad Cities Half Day Workshop. We covered simple approaches for community managers to deal with trolls. The goal was to reduce the anxiety that comes with trying to figure out how to handle mean comments on a brand platform.

Inga Rundquist Speaking

What is the impact of trolls?

Trolls are annoying, seek conflict and feed on attention. They’re also very persistent, and are immune to criticism and logical arguments, which can drive just about anybody completely crazy. Beyond that, they have the potential to negatively impact your brand in a few key ways:

  • By hijacking your comment thread, your message can get lost. As communicators, there’s nothing more frustrating than crafting the perfect post or working tireless on a campaign roll-out only to have a troll come along and take over the thread. Ugh!
  • Trolls can be upsetting to your community. If left ignored, this could even lead your audience to leave your social platforms…not a good thing!
  • It can damage your reputation when you engage with trolls in a manner deemed “inconsistent” with your brand or your audience’s values.

Despite this – it’s important to keep perspective when you’re dealing with these online jerks. While it will feel very personally offensive to you when you see trolls commenting negatively about your brand or people you work with, remember that your post or blog article is only one of a gazillion other pieces of content out there.

More than likely, things will turn out ok! That’s because – as a good communicator – you will have hopefully done some groundwork and strategic planning. Right?

Empower your community managers to deal with trolls confidently by developing a plan and triage process for how to handle negative comments. This should include a set of pre-approved key messages to issues you know could be pain points for your audience.

Tactics for dealing with trolls

Determine who you’re dealing with

Is the commenter an angry customer or a troll?

  • Dissatisfied customers will complain about a specific product or service. Trolls will attack your entire brand.
  • Customers will focus on the issue at hand. Trolls will take things to another level, often with personal attacks.
  • A customer who is upset may provide constructive criticism about a product or service. A troll will complain just for the sake of complaining.

Customer service issues should be addressed quickly and transparently.

Get a second opinion

If you’re faced with a snarky comment and you’re not sure how to tackle things, get a second opinion. When you’re dealing with a troll, it’s always a good idea to get a gut check form a colleague or someone you trust. Too often in these situations we let our emotions get the best of us.

Do not publish your first draft

This one is pretty straightforward. If you have to, step away from the computer. Then, revisit your keyboard and craft a composed response.

Wait … but not too long

If you’ve built a good-sized community, it’s likely that your fans will come to your defense. That’s why in some cases it can pay off to wait (for a little bit) to see if someone will step up in your place. If they do, that’s a pretty awesome third-party endorsement for you, isn’t it?

Create house rules

Here’s a super simple tip you can implement on your social profiles right NOW if you haven’t already. Create community standards that outline how you expect followers to behave and what you will not tolerate. That way, whenever someone leaves a mean and nasty comment you can politely remind them to review the house rules, and then hide or block them, should they re-offend.

Kill ‘em with kindness

Most trolls are not 100 percent trolls… they have a little bit of human left inside them. Be kind!

Go three rounds, then leave the ring

This boils down to “don’t feed the troll.” Resist the urge to get in a heated back and forth with a troll – that’s what they want! Be polite, correct facts, clear up confusion… but try not to engage them beyond that.

Move the conversation offline

Whenever possible, try to move your conversation with negative commenters offline. Ask for their phone or email address and offer to reach out to them directly to discuss their issue. This illustrates to your community that you are listening and trying to do something about the troll’s “concerns.” And guess what, nine times out of 10, the troll will not take you up on your offer!

Hide and block

Banning or blocking a troll is a completely reasonable response when a troll is using threats, hate speech, spamming your account or doing silly things like trying to convert your followers to another brand.

Familiarize yourself with each social media platform’s policy for reporting abuse and blocking followers, and block away.

Dealing with trolls is all about keeping perspective and taking a cool and collected approach. If you need any help, just give us a shout!

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