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August 25, 2011

How to Handle Social Media Trolls – A SPN Exclusive Article

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One of the unfortunate side effects of social networking is dealing with Internet trolls. These anonymous consumers seem to exist just to spite you. They love stirring up trouble, attacking your brand and lambasting your company on every forum, blog and social network they can find. Maybe they are a former customer with an axe to grind. Maybe they’re just looking to pick a fight. Whatever the reason, almost every company is going to have to handle a troll at some point.

Here are 5 ways to help you better manage the social networking trolls:

1. Establish Ground Rules

You want to make sure that the troll doesn’t make your company end up looking like the bad guy. Before trolls become an issue, establish a set of ground rules for commenting on your social profiles. Let you audience know what kind of behavior will and will not be allowed. If a troll posts something offensive or abusive on your Facebook wall and you decide to delete it, let your network know that it’s because you won’t tolerate that kind of belligerent attitude, not because they don’t like your company. Just make sure you play by your own rules!

2. Don’t Try to “Disappear” Them

If someone leaves a comment on your Facebook wall that you don’t like, you have the ability as the page owner to delete that comment. Seems like the best way of dealing with a troll, right? Not necessarily. Trying to just “delete” your trolls and their comments might come across like you have something to hide or are trying to drown our dissenting opinions. It may cause your real social network to question your integrity. If things get really heated, find a way to take the conversation off of your social profile without just deleting it entirely.

3. Kill Them With Kindness

It almost never pays to get into a spitting match with a social troll. They don’t have anything to risk by getting involved in an online feud; you do. Your brand and online reputation are up for grabs when you start fighting with a troll on a social networking site. You may not like what they have to say, but don’t get angry and use social media to vent. The person who is handling your social media marketing cannot afford to take it personally! The troll isn’t attacking one particular employee; they are going after your brand. As long as you stay polite and courteous, your company will come out on top.

4. Reach Out for Support

If you’ve taken the time to do your social media marketing right, you’ve probably built up a strong and solid network of brand loyalists. If one troll seems intent on picking a fight, have your social network come to your defense. Ask your Friends, Fans and Followers to post/Tweet/blog or share their opinions of your company. Chances are your social network is more than willing to police itself. Users are smart, and they can tell when someone is trying to cause trouble for no reason. Having that much support shows the trolls that they are facing a much bigger fight then they thought.

5. Actually Listen

This might sound a little crazy, but you do have to pay attention to what the trolls are saying. They might not be the only ones who feel so negatively about your brand, even if they are taking it to an extreme level. Let’s say you have 1,000 Facebook fans, but only 200 have commented on your Facebook page. Those 200 comments may or may not represent majority opinion. Sure, you have to take the comments of a social troll with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something about your audience at large if you dig deeper. Sometimes a troll is nothing more than a very upset customer. You want to make sure there aren’t other customers this upset with your brand. Once you understand the problem, you can address and fix it.

Sooner or later, just about every company will have to deal with a social troll. It isn’t worth the risk of damage to your brand to get involved in a public fight with one of them. Remember to take the high road and your online reputation won’t suffer because of it.


Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing a full-service SEO and social
media marketing company. With over 12 years of experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal and by publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter. Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com

8 Responses to “How to Handle Social Media Trolls – A SPN Exclusive Article

    avatar Heather Goffrier says:

    Thanks Nick! I have always liked that phrase “kill ’em with kindness.” And good point about listening… we can’t always see our own blind spots. Thanks for sharing!
    Heather =)
    http://heathergoffrier.com

    avatar Wolf Halton says:

    Great article. I agree that you can’t take trolls personally. It is sometimes hard, but maybe you should use it as a chance to figure out why “X” upsets you. Maybe you aren’t being entirely authentic. If your stuff is straight, and your ethics are sorted out, then no negative comment will really get to you. You will ignore it or be amused by the comment, and then you will connect with the troll in a completely different way – maybe even making them into your most loyal supporter.

    This is definitely an important issue, and one that can sometimes get out of control a bit. One thing we like about facebook is the ability to directly respond, remove, etc, depending on the validity of the claim. I think there is nothing worse than a competitor socially trolling. That said, Yelp and such are more of an issue, as you have no ability to remove trolls.

    The best part of this article is the part where you suggest dealing with legitimate complaints directly. I think there is nothing better from a customer service perspective, and it also provides a valuable learning opportunity as well.

    avatar Ernest ODell says:

    Social media trolls, being what they are on “fan pages” and business pages are one thing, but trolls/hackers on the Facebook groups are quite another issue. They are criminals posing as FB “profiles” but worm their way into a group and are hard as hell to remove. They don’t show up in the membership lists and they have multiple identities. If you’re moderating a politically oriented group, you’re especially going to find yourself plagued with these creeps and they will end up taking your site down by hijacking.

    As long as Facebook is porous on their security, fan pages and groups are a poor way of “networking” in social media. Far better to use more secure alternative methods such as forums, newsgroups and/or blogs.

    Ernest O’Dell – Moderator

    avatar tribalstylemedia says:

    I agree about the Facebook security, or lack therof!
    It’s funny they want people to shop on FB but have such lame security measures. My account has been hacked a few times and I’m barely on it.

    avatar ambreen tariq says:

    i know it create bad impression of me to you people. but kindly install some plugins, so we can share and twit your posts with ease.

    avatar Software says:

    Nick – as always, you’ve put out another excellent article, which is why I stay away from every social media, especially dangerous places like Facebook and Twitter!

    Good advices how we should handle this kind of problem.Thanx

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