How To Fend Off Internet Trolls - Social Media Crisis Management

Imagine this scenario: Your blog is well known, your traffic is increasing and the community is growing. Everything is fine and you receive a lot of positive feedback. But then, all of a sudden and totally unexpected a troll turns up with angry comments, rude remarks and mean accusations. A very awkward situation that could easily evolve into a social media crisis or even a so called shitstorm.

So what do you do in a situation like this? First of all keep calm and don't (over)react. It can help to collect some information about the troll in order to figure out his intension. Remember: Trolls are no pets and must not be fed!


A Definition of the Internet Troll

A troll is a person online (mostly on social media) who wants to trigger emotional reactions of their victims by spamming senseless comments and insults.

A troll is NOT somebody with a different opinion or somebody you do not wish to read your articles. The former often start interesting discussions that give you the opportunity of defending your opinion and show off your knowledge on a certain topic. The latter have the same right of expressing their opinions as everybody else and it doesn't always have to be "negative" feedback (if there really is such thing). Anything you could do about it is moderate all comments on the relevant platform but is it really worth it?

Internet Trolls

The Different Types of Trolls

In order to provide an extended definition I'd love to add this list of different types of trolls I found in a hilarious article on The Three Billy Goats Gruff were one of my favourite childhood stories by the way and I recommend you read it if you don't know it!

  • The Your Mum Troll
    This troll's comments on anything and everything mostly consist of only a few syllables in the hope of aggravating other people. They just think it's funny to wind up other people.
  • The Grammar Nazi Troll
    This troll is most infuriating. Whatever important topic you are writing about don't dare to make any grammar mistakes or this troll will hunt you down and upstage the actual point of your article.

  • The Angry Troll (Flamer)
    This troll seems to be mad at the world and tries to cause pain anywhere. He won't necessarily pick up one of your own comments to start his flame but he'll jump out of any dark corner around the web and attack any randomly chosen victim.

  • The Screamer Troll
    YOU'LL RECOGNIZE THE SCREAMER TROLL RIGHT AWAY!!! Whatever he writes it will be nonsense in 99 out of a 100 times characterised by the use of capitals, bold and oversized fonts just to stand out. Please, punctuation marks are no pack animals!

  • The Superman Troll
    Whatever you did, the Superman Troll did it better. Wherever you've been, the Superman Troll was there before you, stayed longer and saw more. He can do anything you can do better, longer and faster. Yeah....sure.

  • The Dark Troll
    This troll aims to inflict emotional pain. Often they pick out victims who are suffering already just to make it worse. Most of their actions have terrible consequences.  

How To Handle Trolls

A troll seeks fun most of the times (by stalling a vivid discussion) and rarely wants to do any real damage (like damaging the reputation of a company). You can still take precautions by informing your community about the troll and react professionally. Maybe then you'll get help directly from your followers. The best reaction though is not to pay any attention (don't feed the troll) because that is what they seek. If they fail to arouse the buzz they hoped for they'll probably sod off.

Jochen Mai from the German made a very nice infographic on how to handle negative feedback online:

How to react to feedback online

  1. Identify the troll asap. (Social Media) Monitoring Tools help you monitor online discussions.

  2. Don't show any emotional reactions but respond as impartial as possible (if you don't need/want to react consider a short comment like "Thank you for your comment" or anything similar because this indicates that you're aware of the troll). Whatever you do, do not interact with trolls, that's exactly what they want.

  3. If in doubt: Ask your colleagues or experts for advice.

  4. Be friendly and polite. Trolls are used to being screamed at and probably swamped with this kind of reaction :-)

  5. Remember: You can control trolls on your own website so don't shoo them away or else they will run loose on the web.

Have you met a troll online? How did you react and what did you learn from this situation?

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