Despite how inappropriate and plain rude trolls can be, it’s vital that you keep it as professional as possible.
By Maxine Volker
If you’re online, so are trolls. Although the term was only really coined in recent years, unfortunately, they’ve been around for a lot longer. Trolls – those people who purposely provoke others online, are less than desirable to come into contact with. If you’re wondering whether or not you’re dealing with a troll, ask yourself three questions.
1) Are they making a concerted effort to aggravate you?
2) Do they use bad grammar and excessive punctuation?
3) Are they aggressive and negative?
If the answer to these questions is yes – unfortunately you’ve got yourself an internet troll. But all is not lost. There are a few effective ways you can deal with trolls. Hint: it’s a lot simpler than you think.
First prize (and the easiest option) is to completely ignore trolls. Let them post what they want and try not to let it faze you. Remember, you’re under no moral obligation to respond to anything online. That being said, ignoring a troll is definitely easier said than done. If what they’re saying is harmless and laughable, you’re probably better off ignoring them altogether. However, if they’re speaking disrespectfully, inappropriately or aggressively, you are well within your right to speak up should you choose to.
Establish a policy
The best way to prevent disaster is to prepare for it. Many social networks have community policies and guidelines outlining what’s okay to say and what’s not. It’s a good idea to create your own policy to highlight what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable. This gives you a leg to stand on when a troll emerges. You can then both share your policy with your community, as well as refer to it when someone steps out of line. Kindly refer them to your community policy and step back. Although a solid policy won’t completely prevent trolls, it will certainly set the tone for engagement in your online community.
Respond factually and make corrections
Unfortunately for internet trolls, you can’t argue with facts. A lot of the time (although not always) troll’s arguments are ill-thought-out and factually inaccurate. Keep all emotions out of your responses and keep it completely impersonal. The more you let your emotions get involved, the more you’ll “feed” the troll and pique their interest. This is not territory you want to enter into. If a troll is making arguments based on inaccuracies, set the record straight. If, however, they’re pointing out a fault on your (or your brand’s) part, think it through properly and then respond honestly. Whether it’s through accepting criticism, apologising or admitting mistakes, this is the time to own up – regardless of how uncomfortable that may be.
Don’t play dirty
Despite how inappropriate and plain rude trolls can be, it’s vital that you keep it as professional as possible. Don’t send a heated response and then delete it. Don’t screenshot and share a private message they sent you. Don’t create fake accounts to be nasty. None of this will benefit you in the long run. Keep it clean, be transparent and think things out carefully before you cast them out into the internet.
Although internet trolls are usually harmless, sometimes things can escalate. If silly, irritating comments escalate to hate speech and threats, it’s definitely time to block them. In addition, don’t be afraid to report trolls. Most social media platforms have an option allowing you to report users for not complying with their various policies. Have a look and see if the troll’s behaviour constitutes breaking community guidelines, and if so, submit a report. This will do two things: scare them a little and hopefully encourage them to tone it down.
Trolls are unpleasant to say the least. Although there will probably be times where your emotions will get the better of you and your response may not be ideal, try to keep these points in mind when dealing with those people lurking online because they have nothing better to do.