The Internet would have once sounded like a fairytale – instant connectivity to everything and everyone you love in the palm of your hand. But what would a fairytale be without a troll under the bridge? Trolls are everywhere, so be prepared to face them without paying a personal or professional toll.
1. Don’t feed the troll
Whether you’re battling a faceless Twitter egg or your conspiracy-loving Uncle Randy, trolls all have one thing in common: they’re here to start a fight. The easiest way to defeat a troll is to simply ignore them. Only respond to Uncle Randy when he asks how the family is doing. Skip anything intended to disrupt or upset you. Remember, a mogwai only becomes a menacing gremlin if it’s fed after midnight.
2. Use your weapons against them
Ignoring a troll won’t always work. Many just have more free time than you do. But there are tools to defeat them. The first and most obvious weapon is the block button. But, if you manage social media accounts professionally, the block button should be used sparingly and only in extreme cases. Believe it or not, blocking a troll can be akin to feeding one. If they’ve threatened your brand enough to warrant a block, that’s a win. The harassment towards your pages will likely continue in the form of other trolls who smell smoke and come running.
Brands have an even more powerful tool that eliminates these troll-satisfying side effects, the hide button. On Facebook in particular, the hide button allows brands to conceal inflammatory comments from their audiences, but it will still be visible to the original poster and the poster's friends. So, instead of the troll getting fed, it will stare at its lonely comment, puzzled and then hopefully move on.
3. Avoid the troll bridge altogether
If you can’t block Uncle Randy or the anonymous Twitter egg, find ways to bring your brand’s content back into the real world. Instead of reposting a controversial article on your newsfeed, look into relevant community groups or activities that relate to that issue. Actively engage with audience members who are adding to positive conversation with shout-outs and retweets. Better still, send surprise physical mailings – if you have the resources – to bring the experience into the physical world and heighten brand affinity. Taking a step back in this way can take away the troll’s ability to infiltrate your space.
4. Don’t become a troll
As gatekeeper of your brand, it can be hard to stop yourself from jumping in to dispel mistruths or ease an irate consumer in the comments section. Just take a deep breath and remember to use the tools social media has provided you. Fighting back against negativity with your caps-lock key will only turn your good intentions into something decidedly troll-like. If an issue needs to be addressed, take the conversation into direct messages, away from prying eyes. Keep the big picture in mind. Your brand is on social media to help your brand. It’s a promotional and customer-service tool. Appreciate the positive people interacting with you online. Be as helpful and informative as possible, and know when to walk away. A troll should never take time away from the real reason you’re online in the first place.
Blocking, hiding, reporting and ignoring can only go so far when someone is determined to bring you down. If you spend a lot of time online, pay close attention to technologies being developed to help combat harassment, and let your voice be heard now. Have a suggestion? Speak up! The Internet belongs to all of us. It takes an army to protect it from the bots and trolls that threaten its potential to continue growing as a force for good.