There’s a saying in social media that goes something like this “You know you’ve “arrived” when you’ve got trolls commenting on your work”. It’s true, the more connections you have on social media networks the more likely someone will disagree with you. Now, just disagreeing doesn’t make somebody a troll though. Trolls are a special breed. They look for high profile sites or people to grumble at, generally to make themselves feel more important. They play off anything you say in response. They exist to stir things up and the bigger the argument becomes the more they love it.
It’s important to understand this dynamic because reason doesn’t work with trolls. Any response just encourages them and if they get a rise out of you? Well, it can get ugly.
One example of what happens when you respond to negativity with negativity is the famous duel between Loren Feldman and Shel Israel. It started out when Loren posted a negative review of the Shel Israel Show. Being a satirist at heart, Loren got the bright idea of a puppet show in which his Shel Israel puppet interviewed some social media thought leaders and he even went so far as to buy the domain ShelIsrael.com and posted his shows there (Shel finally got control of the domain.) and even retained sponsorship for the videos.
Shel responded publicly, mostly on Twitter, and on his blog, but pretty much anything he did only added fuel to the fire. This back and forth went on for over a year with lots of coverage in the press and particularly on TechCrunch.
I am not taking sides here. I’m using this only as an example of how your brand can be damaged by letting something like this snowball. It wouldn’t have been fun to poke at Shel if he hadn’t responded the way he did and it would have probably fizzled. Was Loren really a troll or just a slightly obnoxious satirist who saw an opportunity? You decide. Here’s a definition on Wikimedia of a troll war. If the shoe fits…..’
So how should you deal with trolls?
Ignore them. Trolls exist for the spotlight. Often ignoring them will either make them simply go away or they’ll say even more ridiculous things making them look foolish and desperate.
If you feel you HAVE to respond, wait at least an hour. Decide if you really have to take action at all.
Be nice. Anger only encourages response. Something very short and to the point like “thank you for your point of view”. is enough. The more you say, the more you feed ’em.
if your followers respond angrily the whole thing can escalate quickly too. After all, you’re not the only one who can encourage the troll. Laugh it off or kill them with kindness by thanking them for their viewpoint and passion and ignore any further responses.
Don’t attempt to show them the error of their ways. That just encourages them. Logic, reason and statistics only give fuel to the fire.
Take a page from my client David J. Pollay’s book “The Law of The Garbage Truck“. Wish them well and let them pass on by. You don’t need their garbage in your life.
If the post is abusive, hateful or uses bad language delete it. If it’s on your blog or a forum, block their IP address and put them on the blacklist.
If you’re leaving because of a troll please don’t encourage them by saying so. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails wrote this post on the promise and disappointment of social media when he decided to abandon Twitter because of the trolls. It’s heartfelt and he must have felt it was necessary, but who wins in the end? That’s right. The trolls.
Be boring. Yes, that’s a joke. But when you think about it if you are so boring that you don’t have a big following or comments you’re not good troll bait right?