Don’t Feed the Online Trolls

Trolls. In fairy tales they were green and lived under bridges but these days they live online. What is an online troll? Wikipedia defines a troll as “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional responseWell said Wikipedia… basically online trolls are pests.

As a Social Media Manager I have witnessed plenty of trolls and it is probably safe to say that the bigger your brand the more you will encounter so let’s take a closer look.

Know your troll

Let’s be clear about what a troll actually is. A troll is not simply an internet user or social media follower engaging in an on topic debate with the administrator or other users. This is called interaction and is the whole purpose of social media. Neither is it an unhappy but genuine customer who has complained on your page or on a public forum.  A troll is a user who enjoys causing confusion, irritation or diverting attention from the real topic at hand. Often a troll will be completely unconnected to your brand and has ulterior motives for being there in the first place.

Where do trolls live?

Trolls generally live in forums, social media pages and other public spaces where they can comment and write freely. Trolls love to play to an audience so you will often find them lurking in boosted or sponsored blog posts or popular YouTube videos that have attracted a large number or likes or comments.

Why do trolls… troll?

There are a number of reasons why a troll behaves the way it does however amongst them are boredom, loneliness and a narcissistic need to be the centre of attention. Trolls may also have a political or religious agenda which they feel the need to repeatedly bring into your unrelated posts. On a business level beware because you may also find that trolls are competitors intentionally looking to disrupt your marketing efforts!

What do trolls eat?

Trolls enjoy disturbing the natural direction/topic of the conversation. They love to annoy other internet users (and Social Media Managers) with their persistent and at times offensive comments. Their favourite treat occurs when other users are drawn into debate with them… this is when the troll has won its victory. Those unfamiliar with trolls can be easily drawn into pointless debates which divert attention away from the original post and gives the troll exactly what it wants. Innocent users entering into such debates will rarely win and can often end up leaving the forum or page where the troll lurks which is bad news for Social Media Managers.

How Should We Manage Trolls?

Firstly I believe it is important to ascertain that you are dealing with a real live troll. In social media management you need to take into account the different cultures, characters and reactions of your audience. Pay attention to comments and learn from them but don’t intervene if everyone is playing nicely! If you start to see a user disrupting your posts with irrelevant/ provocative comments or arguing with your fan base I suggest that you block them without any further interaction. Ensure that on your page or forum you have clearly stated the rules (eg no spam, advertising, derogatory remarks etc) and the consequences of breaking the rules (an immediate ban).  If you are unable to block the troll then the best thing to do is ignore them and they will usually get bored and go away of their own accord. A troll feeds on the replies of others so never feed the troll!

What was your worst troll experience? Tweet me and let me know!