Haters are Going to Hate…and the Trolls are Going to Comment.

The necessity of a veritable online existence and prolific social media presence is key to promoting your business’s services, but can also open you up to scrutiny and a bevy of negativity and unplanned criticism from those who we refer to as Internet trolls. How you engage and deal with the trolls can have an impact on your online reputation and a healthy perception of your business. While not all angry responders should be considered trolls; many people have the ability to raise a concern or frustration with the intent on resolution.  The difference between a frustrated customer and an Internet troll is that the troll will deliberately make offensive comments and/or engage others with the goal of eliciting a negative response or inciting riotous behavior from others.

As technology increases and more and more interactions occur online than in person or on the phone, Internet trolls have become prolific.  If it hasn’t happened already, at some point all businesses will encounter a troll, but there are ways to make that “meeting” a little less painful:

Respond and engage, but don’t argue with them – that’s what they want.  You’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t feed the trolls,” which simply means don’t give them a reason to continue.  You can provide them with a straight answer in response to their comment or concern, and then move on.  They will undoubtedly feel the need to keep responding, but if you ignore them after that initial interaction, often they’ll get bored and direct their attention elsewhere. Sometimes when they realize you’re paying attention and engaging with them, they may even change their tone for the better.  There are those occasions where someone may appear to be a troll because they are unhappy, but perhaps they had an actual grievance to share, and just didn’t know how to express it properly.

Give them the facts. If the trolls are relaying inaccuracies or presenting rumors as truth, it is more than acceptable to address the fallacies and to provide them – and anyone else who’s paying attention – with the correct information and facts. Sometimes just addressing their misconceptions early on and countering with truthful information is enough to silence the trolls and put an end to their outbursts.

Kill them with…humor.  If your brand theme is casual and conversational and your voice is comical, a humorous retort may be just the right touch to defuse the situation. I’m certainly not suggesting a dig or humiliating response, but sometime a humorous angle can lighten the mood, especially in good, clean fun.  Maintain your respectfulness, but create a clever response that acknowledges their input, but disarms them with an opportunity for positive engagement from others.  Be witty but tactful; remember, you want to make light of the situation without being unnecessarily mean to the individual, or making the situation even worse.

Let it Go.  I’m sorry if that phrase creates a displeasure within you that only 1,000+ viewings of Disney’s “Frozen” can cause, but it’s a handy mantra when dealing with Internet trolls. The desire to continue responding and to defend yourself is a natural response, but in the process you’re only fueling the fire AND dwelling on something that probably has zero impact on your business and there is no need to let it affect you in the long term. These criticisms are what that grain of salt was made for.

Shut them down.  If all else fails, or if the troll is particularly crude or defamatory, don’t be afraid to block or ban them. This could include hateful tirades, explicit language and threats, which are all solid reasons to exclude them from commenting on any of your social media channels or websites. Most social media platforms have standards and guidelines for content and inappropriate violations of code, so you can often submit a report and they’ll also intervene.

Keep your cool, gracefully respond and be respectful.  If they’re not eliciting a combative response from you, most trolls will give up and find another forum for their negativity. Focus instead on promoting your business and creating a unified community with those who positively engage with you and your brand.  In fact, that community will likely be your best long term defense against the world of Internet trolls.