How to Respond to Online Trolls

How to Respond to Online Trolls

It’s pretty much impossible to spend more than an hour online without running into an online troll. These people get their jollies by infuriating everyone around them and basically making you want to punch them in the face.

While many businesses shy away from trolls, especially on social media, our staff at Make Your Mark is always willing to roll up our sleeves to deal with these idiots for our clients.

Of course, there’s a right and wrong way to handle online trolls, as Amy and Samy Bouzaglo from Amy’s Baking Company learned the hard way after their infamous stint on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.” This article is meant to help you understand how to walk the line of good and evil to shut those haters down for good.

What Are Online Trolls?

Trolls are people who deliberately post provocative and often inflammatory, obscene, aggressive, or otherwise offensive comments online. The ultimate goal of a troll is to ruin someone’s day.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the art of trolling from a self-professed online troll.

Getting upset is known as feeding the trolls, and you want to avoid this at all times. Here’s a quick graphic on the anatomy of an Internet troll to help you understand.

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In order to get fed, a troll will rant about random tangents unrelated to the topic at hand, make unprovoked personal attacks, purposely misrepresent facts, and otherwise go out of their way to douse their intended victim with Haterade in order to rile them up.

As Kendall Walters at Hootsuite explains, there’s a subtle difference between an upset customer and an online troll, which is important for businesses to understand when responding online.

According to Walters, trolls can be identified by their attempts to invoke an emotional response, sense of entitlement, usage of hyperbole, ad-hominem attacks, and, most aggravating of all, usage of poor grammar and spelling.

Of course on today’s Internet, it can be difficult to distinguish an online troll from someone who is simply uneducated or lazy.

For example, Walters’ article is nothing more than a rewrite of a previous article written by Rachel Wisuri at Social Media Examiner. She even sticks to many of the same examples of corporations like Apple and Sainsbury’s dealing with them. I don’t think Walters was trying to troll Wisuri any more than I’m trying to troll Walters, but this type of sloppy work does aggravate professional writers.

More likely the trolls you’ll deal with won’t be in the media – they’ll reside on social media and business review sites. In fact, some of them may have even been hired by your competition to hurt your business.

The Cost of Trolling

A poll published last year by The Telegraph found businesses are spending roughly $40,000 per year to combat online trolls who post negative reviews and comments online. Some even spend upwards of $70,000 or more in legal fees taking action against review sites who allow false negative reviews to be posted.

Suing review sites like Yelp has thus far proved fruitless as the company is transparent about the inherent unreliability of its rating systems. This has led to some some businesses going so far as to sue the individuals who post negative reviews, like this petsitting business in Texas did.

Many consumer advocacy groups worry about the effects these lawsuits may have on consumer freedom of speech and are actively lobbying to make these lawsuits as illegal across the country as they are in the state of California.

Online trolls aren’t the only trolls hurting businesses. Research by the Harvard Business Review estimates financial damages from patent trolls costs businesses an average of $21 million.

Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief and Publisher of MIT Technology Review, also points out psychological and emotional costs of trolling.

This environment leaves business owners with no choice but to confront and deal with Internet trolls, which is why the subject is so important to MYM.

6 Tips to Handle Trolls

The longer you’re in business, the more likely you are to deal with trolls online, and ignoring them simply isn’t feasible when 68 percent of consumers read product reviews on social networking sites and 72 percent trust online reviews.

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As explained by Brian Penny at Connectivity, it’s possible to bounce back from negative reviews, but you’ll need to be smart about it. Here are 6 tips to get you started.

  1. Keep Calm and Carry On

Trolls aren’t the only thing ubiquitous on the Internet – memes are quite popular as well. One of the more popular memes in recent years are derived from the British Ministry of Information’s WWII-era poster, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

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It’s good advice when engaging in a war of words online as well. The goal of a troll is to slow your roll by eliciting an emotional response. So long as you stay calm, you can respond with a level head.

I can’t stress enough that trolls only get stronger when you feed them, so do. Not. Lose. Your. Temper.

  1. Respond with Courtesy and Class

As Mary Long wisely points out in AdWeek’s Social Times, you should never attack or threaten a troll. This only brings you down to their level, in which they will win with experience. Amy’s Baking Company is the classic example of this, as both their Facebook and Yelp pages were littered with aggressive threats toward what they viewed as online bullies.

Instead, retort with courtesy, class, and even humor, as Arby’s did by naming a sandwich after former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart in a marketing campaign highlighting his various jabs at the chain during his tenure on the show.

This will often defuse a troll and cause them to be enraged while you continue looking like the good guy to the rest of your followers and the public.

  1. Debate Fiction with Facts

When trolls start throwing out lies on review sites and social media, shower them with the contradictory truth. Sure, every business makes mistakes occasionally, but if the “customer” can’t prove they’re actually a customer who experienced a mistake, you can deflate them with a simple fact check.

Highlight your company’s successes and use the opportunity to set the record straight. Don’t allow these false negative reviews to ruin your brand’s online reputation.

  1. Remember Your Audience

Never forget that the troll himself is not your intended audience. You’re not trying to reason with them specifically, but rather showing everyone else on the public forum how you respond to these situations.

How would you feel about dating a new person only to hear constant stories about what an asshole their ex is?

Keep this in mind before bad-mouthing or butting heads with a troll online. As Jay-Z says, “The streets is watchin.”

  1. Report Trolls to Admins

One street adage that doesn’t hold up in business is “snitches get stitches.” Social media platforms come with a variety of tools that allow business owners and other users to report harassing or threatening comments online.

Use these features to report online trolls to have Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, or whatever social platform ban them.

  1. Encourage Group Discussion

While trolls are characteristically difficult to deal with, the average person is quite sensible when reading these interactions online. There’s a good chance one of your followers will respond to a troll themselves. In this case, you should facilitate a group discussion that takes yourself out of the hot seat and allows the community to resolve the issue itself.

This tactic helps strengthen your brand relationship online while giving you a glimpse into brand advocates you’ve created with solid business sense.

If you’re still not confident about how to deal with online trolls, contact a digital marketing specialist at Make Your Mark media to receive a free consultation on how we can help create a strategy to deal with your online troll problem.

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