Social Media Trolls: How Should Your Business Deal With Them?

Tom Dempster

Tom Dempster

Social media has made it easier than ever for customers to interact with businesses, providing an inescapable, public line of communication. But what can you do when the worst happens, and the social media troll emerges from under its bridge to throw rocks at your brand?

In this article, we’ll show you how to tell a troublesome troll from someone with a legitimate grievance, and look at some options for stopping a troll in their tracks.

We’ve all been there. 

You’re using Facebook to promote your latest blog post, or showcasing your newest product line on Instagram. Shortly after posting, you receive a notification of a comment.

Great! Social engagement! That’s a good thing – right?

Except this comment isn’t a glowing endorsement of your product. This comment is an uninformed, expletive-laden rant which has the potential to completely overshadow the message your original post was trying to convey.

As you read the comment, you feel a sense of anger building up . Here you are, putting all of your effort into building your business, yet a stranger is threatening your marketing efforts for no justifiable reason.

If your business grows and has sufficient reach on social media, it’s an unfortunate reality that there will come a time when you have to deal with social media trolls. In this article, we’re going to run through a few ways you can deal with these unwanted intruders. 

First things first - what is a social media troll?

This is a good question. Identifying a troll is the first step in dealing with them. It is very important to identify correctly – for example, you don’t want to classify everyone who doesn’t post effusive praise of your business as a troll – this would eliminate anyone who offers constructive feedback or wants to engage in legitimate discussion.

When you see a comment that you suspect might be trolling, ask yourself the following questions:

If you answer “no” to all of these four questions, then there is a good chance that you are dealing with a troll. 

If you answered “yes” to any of them, then approach the conversation in line with your normal customer service protocol. Work to get to the bottom of things to try and help resolve the issue stated by the user. Remember that it is possible to turn negative PR into a positive situation for your brand.

So, you’ve got yourself a troll. What next?

There are a few tactics you can utilize when it comes to dealing with social media trolls – but which is the best one for your business? Here are a few suggestions – make sure to weigh up the pros and cons of each option for your business.

Ignore them

Sometimes, you’ll see people on social media dispense the following advice – “don’t feed the trolls”. In other words – just completely deprive the troll of your attention, and they’ll disappear.

This is the neutral, safety-first approach to dealing with the social media troll. If you’re dealing with an isolated case, then it can work. However, the downside is that by leaving their comment out in the open (without any response from your business) it can plant a seed of doubt for the uninitiated browser of your social media profile. At the very least, it makes people wonder if you even look at your social media comments – which isn’t what you want. 

Wherever possible, as a business, we really wouldn’t recommend the ‘ignore’ option.

Block/ban the troll and delete their comments

If the troll has violated the terms of service for a social network, you could decide to flag the comment as inappropriate or request that they are banned from the platform. 

This choice is probably one step up from ignoring them. In this instance, at least you are taking some action, – but this is still quite a defensive approach to the problem. Depending on the number of trolls you are dealing with, this can take some time, and there is often no guarantee that they won’t respawn with another account and continue to cause an issue.

To truly cut these trolls down to size, you need to be proactive and put your best foot forward.

Respond with the truth

In some scenarios, the troll may be a competitor (or someone acting on a competitor’s behalf) who may be trying to insinuate mistruths about your business in an attempt to hurt it.

You can’t just leave a lie hanging in the air for everyone to think about. Responding calmly with the truth is usually the best way to eliminate falsehoods. You don’t have to do it in a condescending manner, but simply with the facts of why the troll is incorrect. This builds trust in your brand, and will highlight to your community that you care about what people say about your business – and that you care about the truth.

This is the course of action we would typically recommend. Any business owner or marketing team who believes in their product or service should have the confidence to be able to do this.

Use humor to make light of the troll

This approach can take what might have been a negative situation and turn it into a huge positive – if it is executed correctly. That’s a big if.

A witty retort can be a great tool in your arsenal to respond to a troll (particularly if it fits your brand’s overall messaging). It can actually result in positive engagement and support from your existing followers. However, it is worth assessing the risk, and it can be a very fine line to tread. You don’t want to drag yourself down to the troll’s level, after all. You also don’t want to say anything that could be perceived as offensive or bullying. This could be off putting for those who are scrolling through and are unfamiliar with your brand.

Be true to your brand

This is the most important piece of advice in this article.

When it comes to responding to a troll, do so in a way that is reflective of the overall message your brand puts out into the world. Be authentic.

If your marketing efforts are based around humor, and your business has had success with that messaging, then go ahead and try to take out the troll with a joke. On the other hand, if your industry requires you to be more serious, your brand’s tone of voice may reflect that – and it might be best to stick to the facts.

Building a loyal following on social media can also really help when it comes to extinguishing trolls. If you have people who are huge fans of your products, they are more likely to defend you in the face of unwanted criticism (and sometimes, even legitimate criticism). Your followers might actually get to the troll before you do.

Regardless of which solution you choose, you (or your marketing/social media team) should be acutely aware of how you want your brand to be perceived. You have to control the narrative.

It is worth setting aside some time to decide upon the right response for your business. If you do, then when a troll strikes, your business has a clear path for dealing with them.

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