There’s a saying in the business world that if you’re gonna do anything online, you gotta pay the troll toll.
But do you? Trolls — people who say offensive things to get a reaction — may be everywhere online, but responding to them is a decision, not an inevitability. Remember that you owe it to your brand, your customers and your employees to not do anything too embarrassing online. After all: the internet is forever. You can guarantee that plenty of people will screenshot a picture of your mean tweet response before it disappears.
So, deciding when and how to engage with trolls should be a diplomatic decision. Weigh your options carefully, and consider the following points when deciding whether or not to respond at all and what form your response should take.
When to Acknowledge Trolls
Ignoring trolls is often your best option. According to a Pew Research Poll, 60 percent of people choose to do so when they are victims of online harassment.
If the trolling occurs on your owned space — such as a comment section on your blog or a comment on your Facebook post — feel no remorse in terminating it with extreme prejudice via a speedy delete. You can also unlink yourself from connected mentions on platforms like Twitter and Facebook rather easily.
So, for the most part you will be moderating offensive comments or comments that seem unproductive. Consider it part of the job.
Yet, there are two instances when ignoring trolls is not your best option:
- When a quality conversation can be had from the experience
- When ignoring them will make the damage worse
Sussing out when these two possibilities exist can be difficult, but trust your instincts when deciding whether responding is worth your time. Just make sure to reply or respond in a calm, calculated manner — preferably with the backing of other people in the company who have a good head on their shoulders.
Also, remember: any response should be in your brand’s voice, not your own. Hissyfit fights start when someone goes on a one-man crusade to avoid paying the troll toll, only to find themselves looking worse for it.
When Engaging Trolls Goes Right
You have a couple of options when engaging with caustic people who may or may not be trolls.
- Respond with humor: Sainsbury’s provides a great example of responding to a jab in a playful but non-combative way. The move garnered them positive responses online even though it didn’t resolve the actual complaint.
- Take the conversation to the adults’ table: Sometimes trolls can start important conversations, albeit in a very obnoxious way. You can choose to respond to the idea of their post without responding directly to their negativity, such as when American Airlines informed an obvious troll that all threats are taken seriously and reported to the FBI.
- Do damage control: When Apple’s iPhone 6 was released, a select few people had issues with the product bending in their pocket. Then a bunch of jerks did it on purpose to prove some sort of nonexistent point. Apple responded by acknowledging the issue but also assuring people that it was being fixed and that very few owners were affected.
- Give people the facts: Ellen Degeneres faced a possible troll situation when people reacted negatively to a tweeted, photoshopped image of her riding Olympic runner Usain Bolt. Rather than getting defensive, Ellen sought to illustrate how sensitive she is to such issues and how she assumed Bolt would take the tweet positively after having spent so much time on her show. In fact, Bolt himself retweeted the image.
So, in summation: don’t feed the trolls with emotion. Respond with logic or detached, ironic, inoffensive sarcasm in a way that speaks to your brand’s values, not your inner insecurities. Remember that trolls are trying to have fun at your expense. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
If corralling trolls back under their bridge ever gets overwhelming, you can entrust a professional digital marketing firm like EverSpark Interactive to manage your online image and preserve your brand’s reputation. Take a look at our available digital marketing services or contact us to get started today.