The internet can be a great tool for your business; your brand can be spread far and wide, opening you up to a whole new international audience.
But by opening your business up to social networks and actively promoting interaction, negativity, it seems, can be just around the corner…
This post is here to highlight, as a business owner, what you should be doing to deal with trolls as part and parcel of sharing your business with the world.
What is Trolling?
The first step in knowing how to deal with a troll is learning how to recognise one.
A troll is someone who leaves a comment that is solely intended to provoke a reaction. Some trolls are obvious, and only in it for their own amusement; others are genuinely attempting to hurt your business and personal reputation. Ironically, the former are often far more offensive than the latter.
So while associations are negative, trolling isn’t always sinister; in fact it can come in many guises. How about the man who used this drawing of a spider to try and pay his utility bill!
Nameless is Blameless
It is easy for people to comment and communicate online anonymously, and this anonymity often fuels trolling.
Sometimes it can be all too tempting for someone to leave a negative comment whilst they’re hiding behind the screen of their computer.
For instance, check out this study by the online commenting platform Disqus – it found that only 34% of anonymous comments left online were positive.
While you won’t find your troll in directory enquiries, trolling has in some cases been illegal and people have been found and prosecuted.
Court orders have been used to gather the IP address of anonymous users, and in the Lesher trial damages were awarded to the tune of 14 million dollars.
But what practical steps can you take to deal with a troll yourself?
The most important thing to bear in mind is that potential customers will be able to view your response, and your business will be judged on what you say.
No business owner wants to hear bad feedback about their business, but the worst thing to do is to get offended.
1. Is it a genuine complaint?
If a customer has a genuine complaint, then you should always reply in a professional manner; many situations can be addressed with common sense and empathy towards your customer. Once someone knows that you are working to rectify the problem, a lot of people will be satisfied with the response.
Do not simply dismiss anyone who insults you or your company as a troll! Responding to personal insults with a cool and clear head makes you look great, especially if you offer help — by doing this, you are effectively calling a troll’s bluff.
2. Or are they a troublemaker?
Sometimes though, there are trolls that are only looking to cause trouble, no matter how you address their concern. If this is the case, then it’s best to remain professional, leave a reply, and ignore further postings.
Getting drawn into a long argument with someone who’s clearly taking liberties is a waste of time, and looks ridiculous. Chances are, if you responded professionally and helpfully enough the first time, other commenters will step in for you to help you defend yourself!
On any site that you have control of, be sure to delete any offensive material, rather than replying to it and calling it out as offensive. This is what a typical troll wants. On any site that you don’t have control of, there will usually be a method of reporting obnoxious, racist, sexist or homophobic comments.
It can be hard to refrain from continually replying to trolls, but it’s important to recognise that you won’t win every argument.
One bad comment easily disappears when it’s surrounded by positive reviews!
What’s the worst trolling you’ve ever experienced? How did you deal with it, and did that make it worse or better?
Image: Jeff Horsager