How to Trash Your Online Trolls
Have you ever seen a professional comedian shut down a heckler? It’s a lovely sight to see. The heckler, who has probably been drinking, has no clue what he’s up against. This is a professional who has spent hundreds of hours on stage dealing with live, drunken audiences. You know that hecklers will be annihilated when they are dumb enough to open their mouths.
Comedian Milton Jones, who has worked as a comic for most of his life, has only been floored by an online bully on two occasions. The first was when someone shouted, “These are just words!”
The second was more disturbing. Halfway through his act, someone shouted, “What is this?!” In the long moment of quiet that followed, he couldn’t work out what they meant. And the longer he left it, the more it seemed like an entirely reasonable question.
As marketers, we have one big advantage when a troll heckles us online – time. We can take a few minutes to consider our response, and we can get it just right before we send that response out into the world for all to read.
What is a troll?
It’s both a mythological creature of Scandinavian folklore and a person who posts inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community. The intent of the first type of troll is to scare kids into going to bed. The second kind of troll we’re dealing with intends to provoke readers into displaying emotional responses or manipulating others’ perceptions. (Thanks, Wikipedia, for the help on that.)
To put it simply, a troll is an online jerk who will steal your time, aggravate you, confuse your readers, and generally make life miserable if you let them.
Trolls harass, hate, bully, threaten and stalk. Seemingly ordinary people in the real world turn into jerks online. But you can fight back and win, often without even firing a shot.
First, here’s how to know you’re dealing with a troll:
How to Annihilate Your Trolls with These 10 Techniques
1: Don’t feed the trolls. You’ve heard this bit of advice time and again because it works. Trolls thrive on emotional responses and get bored if no one responds to them. Pretend they do not even exist. They’ll spend the next few hours repeatedly checking for your response in vain, and finally, they’ll heave a sigh of disappointment and move on to another target.
2: Ask for the evidence. When a troll is making crazy, wild accusations, stay calm and ask for the facts, the sources, and the evidence of their unsubstantiated claims. Odds are they’ll disappear back into the shadows and leave you alone.
3: Be crazy kind. Trolls are looking for a fight, so they will likely either disappear or calm down and begin acting rationally when you respond with kindness. You cannot fight fire with fire, and you cannot calm anger with anger. But sometimes, you can kill anger with kindness. And regardless of the troll’s response, those watching on social media will be impressed with you.
4: Use humor. Because trolls are trying to evoke anger, they don’t know what to do if you use humor to diffuse the situation. Just be careful not to appear offensive to those who are watching.
5: Implement a no-trolling policy. Suppose you are in charge of the platform, whether a social media profile, a blog, a discussion forum, and so forth, post guidelines that include a no-trolling policy. If someone is angry that you deleted their comment, point to the policy and cite the violation as cause for removal.
6: Add moderators. If you’re managing a small-scale blog or social media profile, then you can handle this alone. But if you have thousands of posts coming in, you need to get help. Create a team of moderators who can verify comments and deal with policy violations.
7: Use moderation tools. If you can’t afford moderators, consider using a tool to help you. For example:
8: Block, ban and report trolls. If you have a troll that won’t stop, it’s time to report them for being abusive. Also, make sure you unfollow the person as well as report them.
9: If possible, have ‘friends only.’ This doesn’t work if you’re a business. But if it’s a personal account and you don’t want random trolls commenting on your posts, keep your posts private.
10: Breath first. A troll wants you to react, so don’t. Take a step back, breath, go for a walk, and decompress before replying. Even if you think your immediate reply is perfect, DO NOT POST IT until you let some time pass and you’ve calmed down. Trust me on this, or you’ll inevitably end up posting something you regret.
10.5: Be professional, stay professional. Stay calm and factual. Determine if this is a troll or an actual customer, and ask yourself how a professional would respond. If it’s a customer, apologize regardless of whether or not you did something wrong, and then redirect them to a private channel for further communication.
Remember at all times that your comments are public and others are watching. In most cases, people are far more interested in how you handle the problem than in the problem itself. Dealing with angry customers and trolls can be an opportunity to gain or lose business, depending on how you take care of the situation.