#FiveTipsFriday Handling Negativity and Trolls

1780733762_ecc4f7bf31_mJust like in real life, the online world is a mixture of truly great people and great experiences along with people and experiences that are not so great. If you are using social media on behalf of your business, this fact can represent a particularly inconvenient truth. Inevitably, if someone is “trolling” your social media presence (i.e. making offensive comments that really do not have to do with your content) you will find yourself at greater risk of looking really bad. It does not seem fair, but that is the way it goes. He who reacts last reacts loudest.

That being said, if you find that your blog or your Facebook page or your tweets are being attacked by a particularly negative person or troll, there are some tips for how to handle the situation with applomb. Our five tips today will help you with just that.

1. Do not “delete” immediately

The temptation can be to simply delete any negative feedback you get. In some cases this may be appropriate, but often doing this can just add fuel to your troll’s fire. Have confidence in your own brand and in your growing community. Simply ignoring the troll will drive them nuts, and you might afford people the chance to come to your defense. This can actually strengthen other relationships you have been growing.

2. Do not react out of anger

Fighting negativity on social media platforms can become very tiring. If a negative comment hits you at just the wrong moment, your first inclination may be to completely fly off the handle. Again, this can make YOU look bad. The nice thing about the online world is that you can punch a pillow offline and nobody has to know about it online. Make sure you react with a calm, rational mind. Be on your best behavior even if people responding to you are not.

3. Do not encourage your supporters to get involved

Sometimes people who get attacked online let their supporters know what is going on and they ask for help in “beating down” the troll. This can create extremely ugly, out-of-control situations, especially on Facebook or on a blog post where comments are threaded and easy to find. You could actually end up leading people who like you into a negative situation they would come to resent you for, and that does no one any good. Handle the situation in the best way you can, and if people naturally gravitate to your side, that’s icing on the cake.

4. Do not confuse legitimate negative feedback with “trolling”

Sometimes, though we hate to admit it, someone brings up a flaw in our product or a criticism of our company. This is not the same thing as “trolling” or random negativity. In order to build your credibility, not to mention the ultimate growth of your company, you need to be able to handle genuine criticism with grace. Dismissing critiques as “hating” or “trolling” can backfire on you. It may be that the person critiquing you is actually trying to help you out. If you dismiss them or treat them like a random negative force, you may lose a person who had been a long-time customer. Be very cautious in this regard.

5. Don’t take it personally

People who act like “trolls” online are seldom reacting to a specific person or a specific company. More often than not they are simply looking for attention for whatever reason, and they know that “acting out” is a great way to get people to pay attention to you in the online world. You are not being singled out and your company most likely is not under attack. Do not feel you must immediately take the defensive position, but also do not let these kinds of events throw you off your game. It is most probably not really about you.

The possibility of negative feedback or “trolls” is one of the primary obstacles that often prevents companies from engaging in social media. This is not a healthy way to look at the situation. Factually, two things can happen in the face of these events. The first is that you simply can dismiss the negativity as a side effect of the new era of marketing. The second is that you could actually learn what your customers are saying about you. Even if it isn’t all positive, you now can improve facets of your business you never knew were problematic. That can be a huge gift.

Have you ever encountered a “troll” online? How did you handle it?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dunechaser/1780733762/ via Creative Commons


5 comments on “#FiveTipsFriday Handling Negativity and Trolls

  1. I would add that it’s smart to keep the sites official contact info handy (to report abuse) in case it starts getting really out of hand. There is a troll who has his/her knife into one of my good friends right now (I suspect you know who I’m talking about) and I keep getting these emails about how this person is going to send my friend down. I have repeatedly said I don’t want to be on these emails, that I want nothing to do with them… but I keep getting them. I’ve reported him/her to the email company of choice in the past, but then s/he just starts up again with a new email address. Incredible how much energy people put into stuff like this. But at least the reporting makes me feel I’m notifying the officials that their service is being misused.

    • Good point. I still find it very bothersome that Twitter in particular takes such a hands off approach to those situations. It’s pretty much, “Deal with it yourself or call the police.” I think we need a much better security infrastructure online. It hasn’t seemed to really catch up to the technology yet.

  2. Have you read Andrea Weckerle’s book on this topic? Pretty awesome stuff.


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