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 early 90s trolls were cute little plastic dolls with the bright neon colored hair, and now trolls live on the internet leaving crude comments throughout the web. Now that we got that little history lesson out of the way, let’s focus on how to handle trolls.
Internet tolls leave behind a destructive path of infuriating comments throughout the internet from Yelp reviews to company Facebook pages. They’re everywhere. And as a social media community manager, how do you deal with them? Do you respond back? 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. We live in the age of the internet, where these trolls hide behind their screen leaving bad comments and being, for lack of better words, plain assholes. In today’s age you don’t need to necessarily lure trolls out of their cave, you just need to engage them and if they’re still assholes as the old saying goes ‘f&#@ the haters.’
1. ENGAGE THEM BUT BE SMART ABOUT IT
Respond to the troll, after all for most of them their objective is to get a reaction from you. So give them what they want, your attention. Comment back, engage with them. Be smart about the conversation, engage with them but don’t feed the troll; if it doesn’t feel right 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 happen to 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 often get your blood boiling. A bad comment will be infuriating and you’ll want to respond in the heat of the moment but think about what you’re going to say before you type it. You might want to respond with a big ‘f@#* you’ or write out a long excuse when first reading a bad comment, but obviously don’t. Be mindful of the words you use, your grammar, and the content because nothing will fuel a troll more than the misuse of there, their, and 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.’ And if the troll is a repeated offender use the ‘overly attached girlfriend’ meme to poke fun of their constant posting.
4. BE THE BIGGER PERSON
As implied in the previous posts be polite, don’t stoop to their level. Don’t be 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, rather tempting road to go down but always be mindful of the image you want to portray. You don’t want to be that company that has an embarrassing sparing match with a troll on Facebook and then have it screen-shooted and shared throughout the web.
5. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
It’s a simple tip but probably the hardest. If your 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 that that’s a mix of their already bad day getting worse. There are a ton of factors that go into why someone leaves a bad comment, and sometimes none of them have to do with you or your company. You are just the target they’re projecting all this anger and hate towards. So don’t take in personally and if it becomes too much just close the tab and proceed to watch cat videos on YouTube.
BONUS TIP: BE DRAKE BELL AND 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 internet trolls. A comment about Bieber’s musical abilities started an internet brawl between very passionate Beliebers and Bell. He engages with 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. He even invited Beliebers that were threatening him while on a flight to LA to meet him at LAX, giving out his terminal and flight details; essentially calling them out on their bluff. A few Beliebers showed up but be was polite with all of them even taking pictures with those who asked. Bell is an ace example of how to properly deal with trolls and by doing so he has won over the non-Belieber side of the internet.
An example of what not to do is Amy’s Baking Company, who after appearing on the Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares did everything wrong when engaging with the bad comments they received. It was truly a nightmare. The chef took it all too personal and let it affect her work and business. They didn’t edit themselves and responded to comments in all CAPS (side tip: never write in all caps, ever.) and used profanity against their customers. Their engagement was unnecessarily rude. They fed the troll and soon everything spiraled into a PR nightmare for the business. So be smart when responding to bad comment and engaging with trolls