There’s a simple antidote to Internet trolls. It costs nothing to manufacture and can be found in vast quantities if you know where to look.
Before this goes further let’s establish the difference between criticism and trolling. Criticism of a business is done out of imperfections such as poor service and genuine unhappiness with a product. More importantly, unhappy customers tend to be more civil. Trolls simply vent their hate wherever they have an audience, and social networks are one of their favorite nesting grounds. Ninety nine percent of the time business owners have done nothing to earn the enmity of trolls.
Dealing with trolls can be a tricky subject when it comes to a business’ social profiles. Every instinct screams to make them want to disappear. As an administrator you have the ability to do it but people don’t consider the ramifications. Deleting their comments or outright blocking them tends to add fuel to the fire and should be done as an extreme last resort if they absolutely won’t leave you alone.
On the other hand, telling trolls to piss off, get jobs, or go through puberty elsewhere may feel good in the short term but this these exchanges are going to be visible everyone with an Internet connection. You’re letting trolls drag you down to their level and it only looks juvenile to sling mud back at them. It’s not a personality trait you want affiliated with your online voice when it’s time for consumers to buy.
There’s a much easier, more effective way to deal with trolls: Being polite and courteous, just as you would be when dealing with criticism.
I spent some time consulting for a restaurant in South Norwalk that’s serving up some delicious pizza. Their Facebook page was off to a great start complete with near-unanimous positive reviews of the food, ambiance and service. All was well, until this insidious commenter reared his head:
This was an unproductive, unhelpful comment from someone who had probably never been to the restaurant, but the response is more important. We turned the comment around by claiming the commenter’s expertise on the subject, and it would have been an opportunity for potential business had the commenter taken them up on the offer. On a more subtle level, this was a polite way of saying “Put up or shut up” and a way for this troll to get down to brass tacks.
It’s been months with no word from this fellow. Either he didn’t bother checking for responses or he saw the response and decided to not press the issue. When you show trolls that you aren’t taking their trollbait, they get bored and wander off almost immediately. Only the most dedicated, vendetta-driven trolls will actively pursue an argument. When it becomes clear that they’re just out to pick a bone with you and won’t back off, use the delete tool as your little red button.
Just make sure you don’t feed the trolls.
Author’s note: This really only applies assuming the comments aren’t obscene, profane, bigoted, pornographic, or gives out personal information. If they are, don’t have any qualms about deletion.