Dos and Don’ts of Dealing With Internet ‘Trolls’

As brands continue their transition from traditional media to digital, there are certain obstacles they’ll have to overcome on the Internet that they never had to deal with in print, television or radio. For instance, since the Internet is “always on” you might find that deadlines are accelerated, and content needs are increasing. These are obstacles every marketer will have to deal with, but they aren’t necessarily the worst aspect of dealing with this new medium.

For that title, we’ll have to turn to the Internet “troll”.

No, I’m not talking about a short mythical creature that makes you answer three questions before crossing a bridge. An Internet troll is an individual whose only goal is to seek out others on the internet and get under their skin by making absurd remarks in comment sections, outlandish claims on social media, or worse, by finding your email address and flooding your inbox with crazy requests.

The Internet troll is as old as the web, and therefore trolls are well versed in the many tactics and strategies that will make digital marketers want to rip their hair from their heads. Unfortunately, the troll’s favorite move is to disguise themselves as an everyday customer with real needs, luring you into their trap, and harassing you and your brand once you’ve taken the bait. If you deal with them incorrectly, it could leave a black eye on your brand’s digital presence and negatively impact your goals in this medium.

With that said, here are a few dos and don’ts to help guide you towards success when you inevitably cross paths with this digital nightmare:

  • Do: Kill them with kindness. The Troll wants nothing more than for you to get on their level and a level head and calm demeanor will defuse the situation.
  • Don’t: Engage them. This can be difficult considering you are unsure of whether or not whom you’re dealing with is a troll or a sincere customer. However, once that distinction is made, move on.
  • Do: Deal with them “offline”. If you have a feeling someone is trolling your digital presence, leave a kind online reply, and handle the situation outside of any public facing digital asset (i.e. comments sections or on social media).
  • Don’t: Become uncivilized “offline”. If you’ve decided to deal with the issue via Email, you’re not out of the woods yet. The troll will continue it’s pursuit here, instigating you and trying to make you become uncivil in your responses. Remember that while these correspondence may seem private, the troll can easily take a screen shot and post them on your digital presence.
  • Do: Moderate social media and comments sections. Chances are trolls aren’t only coming after your brand, but your loyal customers as well. If a troll is harassing another user in your comments section or on social media, take the moral high ground, flag them for inappropriate behavior, and erase them from your online presence. You can take this one step further and apologize to the other user that was affected and in turn show how much your brand truly cares.
  • Don’t: Immediately block or ban these individuals. If you block or ban them immediately, without first attempting to defuse the situation, you’ll no doubt have other trolls coming at you for blocking their “freedom of speech”. Obviously this is not what you are attempting to do, however, trolls don’t adhere to logic. Rather, consider the steps given above and use a block or ban as your last resort.

The Internet has become the Wild West for traditional marketers—a new space where the rules are similar but not entirely the same. How you deal with Internet trolls is something that will factor into the way prospective consumers view your brand, especially younger demographics, so remember these dos and don’ts as you grow your digital presence.