Protecting Yourself from Trolls this Halloween ... and Beyond

Facing a troll? Here are some tips. Photo in the  public domain . 

Facing a troll? Here are some tips. Photo in the public domain

Troll infestation? We're not talking about the kind that live under bridges. If you are a business on social media, you're going to meet a troll or two. Here are some tips for identifying, dealing with, and protecting yourself from Internet trolls. Happy Halloween!  

Step 1: Identify a Troll

In fairy tales, trolls are ugly and lumpy and hide under bridges. On social media, it's harder to recognize them. Look for the following signs:

  • Methodology: Are they attacking your organization, instead of your behaviour or service?
  • Tone: Are they angry, aggressive, and they won't back down?
  • Prior behaviour: Look at their other posts. Trolls tend to be angry everywhere, not just on your page.
  • Actions of others: If the community is ignoring or telling the poster to cut it out, it's probably a troll.

Step 2: Interact with the Troll

This may seem counterintuitive, but even the billy goats talked with the bridge troll. While a private citizen on social media could skip this step, organizations shouldn’t. Even if commenters are acting trollish, they may still have a point, and you might have done something wrong. Give them the benefit of the doubt—you’ll have a bigger issue on your hands if you misidentify someone as a troll. 

Your initial contact should be respectful and just like you would treat a non-trollish inquiry. "Thanks for your tweet/comment. Is there something I can help you with?" is a good example. 

Step 3: Defeat the Troll

If after your interaction, you decide you definitely have a troll on your hands, here are some ways to defeat the troll: 

  • Ignore the troll. Often, this is enough to make the troll lose interest. And, if your community is strong, others may tell the troll to cut it out. Let them. 
  • Give the troll an offline out. "I understand you're upset. Let us DM you an email/phone number to get in touch and we can discuss more." 
  • Deliberately misinterpret. Post "Thanks for your feedback" as if what the troll has said is actually helpful. 

If your organization is comfortable with a little more risk, you might try being a Billy Goat Gruff. Don't budge from your position and stand up to the troll. This is very risky and you may come off as a bully yourself, so be careful. 

If trolling persists, you may have to resort to deleting comments and possibly banning the troll. However, be transparent about deleted comments, and remember blocking on some platforms just means you can't see them, but everyone else still can. 


The best action: Build up your troll defences

Have a strong comment policy and procedures for moderating or mediating comments. And build up your community of supportive, engaged fans with a compelling content strategy. 

If your business needs help with anti-troll preparation, NikComm can help. Contact us to discuss your needs.