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Dealing with Social media Trolls

When you’re a business owner with your brand on social media, engagement is always a good thing… Unless the comments start taking a negative and reputation-bashing turn.
Sometimes the concerns are genuine, but other times, it’s just people trying to pull you down by a few notches.

The question is, how do you deal with such commenters? And what do you call them?

Well, an article by psychologists from the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and University of British Columbia calls the people who generate such interest ‘trolls’. “Trolls operate as agents of chaos on the Internet, exploiting ‘hot-button issues’ to make users appear overly emotional or foolish in some manner”, the article says.

But how do you deal with them? Here are a few tips:

  • Respond as soon as possible: Responding quickly, empathetically, and most importantly, with facts. The aim is to show commenters and followers that you take every bit of criticism seriously – even if it is unwarranted. Doing so before it gains momentum helps you ‘nip it in the bud’.
    1. Remember that sometimes such criticism is the result of a perceived problem rather than an actual problem. A wise course of action would be to treat all comments as feedback; with respect, and grace, no matter how hostile it might be. Doing so will enable you to walk away with your reputation and business image intact.
    2. Criticism, however, from trolls, is designed as a bait, to pull you and your business into an unnecessary whirlwind of drama and reputation-damage. Therefore, the best approach would be to ignore them, or respond positively, along the lines of “Thank you for taking interest”.
  • Make the conversation private: Trolls feed off attention. According to The Guardian, they’re not looking for resolution. Instead, they enjoy drawing out people into a battle where no one can win. Bringing the conversation to a private space lets you determine whether the person commenting is actually a customer with grievance that he/she wants to be sorted out, or if it’s a troll who just wants to generate negative attention. Asking the commenter to reach out to you via email or personal messages is the first step to decreasing potential drama that they could create. Keep in mind to still maintain an empathetic, positive and yet factual response-tone.
  • Keep respect alive: It’s not wrong to overstate this point; social media communities are not very tolerant of arrogance and disrespect, so if you keep the conversation respectful, your followers will themselves answer the aggressor.
  • Have a plan for social media crisis, and stick to it: By far the best approach– envision the worst that could happen on social media and prepare positive responses for every scenario. This helps when you actually have a crisis on your hands.

In this age of instant reactions, unpleasant comments or unwarranted attacks are inevitable. While it’s tempting to treat fire with fire, it’s important to remember that as in any controversy, your reputation is on the line. So keep these points in mind and don’t let others create a false impression about your business.