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Tips to tackle the trolls

In folklore, a troll is: “an ugly cave-dwelling creature depicted as either a giant or a dwarf”. When we think of a troll nowadays, the wicked, supernatural, fairytale-like creature of children’s tales isn’t usually the first thing that springs to mind.
 
Since the rise of the internet, a new type of troll has emerged. The troll as we know it today is someone who makes offensive and abusive comments, often masked by an online persona, to other people via communities online. They stay anonymous, stir up drama, use shock tactics and speak in an abusive way to try and upset a particular brand or person as much and as publically as possible. 
 
As social media grows, meeting a troll in an online community is inevitable. Trolls like a big audience, which means you’ll normally find them on interactive sites like blogs, social media platforms and discussion forums. While you can’t control whether or not you will become the target of a troll, how you respond to one if you do can make a huge difference to the impact it has on you and how you’re viewed by others during and after.
 
So, what are the best ways to deal with a troll? Our Client Director Harriette was keen to find out your tips on how to reply to trolls so she took to the Social Media Marketing Group on LinkedIn to find out.
 
Marketing Director Ashleigh Auld believes you should: “reply in a civilised manner regardless of their rudeness”. 
 
Very wise. After all, it’s easy to turn your anger back on a troll but you’re more likely to end up in a full-blown argument with them eventually, thus giving in to what they want – attention. 
 
Auld goes on to say: “If they do it a second time, you report them to Twitter and effectively disconnect from them”. That’s true too – don’t be afraid to use the block button and report abusive language on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Reporting a troll often results in them being kicked off networking sites, which also block their IP address. It doesn’t mean they won’t pop up using different details, but it can be a good way to show them you’re not willing to take the bait.
 
Hermann Djoumessi, an Online Community Manager at Borderline TV, stresses the importance of taking screenshots, as: “it will come in handy when arguing your case with Social Networks”. 
 
Nicolette Rivera, a Marketing Analyst at OSP Group has noticed that if you ignore trolls “they tend to multiply”. There’s always the possibility that more could be waiting to pounce from behind the computer screen but ignoring trolls has a different effect on each and every one of them. 
 
A lot of advice on the internet says you should never communicate with a troll as you are giving in to what they want – a reaction. Whereas others believe that simply ignoring a troll will give them even more power as it shows them they have the power to silence you. It’s clear that different tactics work for different people. If you do engage with a troll, be smart about it. Don’t feed a troll. Say what you need to, make an exit from the conversation and be the bigger person. 
 
Dealing with trolls if you’re a brand or marketing director
 
Trolling can have a whole new meaning when looking at it from a marketing point of view. Kelly Rate, a Marketing Consultant in Tacoma believes you should: “play devil’s advocate”. As a marketer, she finds that “sometimes conflict on social media can drive a lot of positive and/or sales-growing attention if it’s humorous and the brand seems to win”. She uses Taco Bell and Old Spice as examples of how brand-to-brand social media interaction on Twitter can be used to humanise their image and increase consumer loyalty. She ends by saying: “If you’ve got good comeback for some trolls, don’t be afraid to use it! Just commit 100% whichever way you decide to go. It’s all about your brand personality”. 
 
As long as social media exists, trolling is likely to happen. So what do you think is the best way of tackling trolls? Do you think they are a threat or do you believe, like Kelly, it’s potentially a good way for brands to show personality? Share your tips and advice in the comment box below or join the discussion in the Social Media Marketing Group on LinkedIn.
  1. Tine Knapp : 25th November 2014 at 7:50 pm

    This year's best article. Thanks! … And yes, the trolls are out there and are somewhat attention-suckers

  2. Duncan Michell : 27th November 2014 at 11:00 am

    Trolling is yet another problem caused by our current internet system and the time has come for our internet system to be completely clean up and ALL the nasty stuff including social media sites removed as these simply caused many on-going problems in our society.

  3. Sherryl @ Simply Sherryl : 14th January 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Great advice for dealing with trolls. Online or in real life there are always those that want to cause problems.

    I don't know if there is one way to handle them that works all the time. Sort of have to play it by ear and meet each head on.

  4. neil cubley : 1st April 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Alternatively, you can do what Lindy West did and connect with her worst ever troll.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/545/if-you-dont-have-anything-nice-to-say-say-it-in-all-caps

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