Online services are plagued like an epidemic by trolls whose only motive is to cause emotional distress. And if you think it is restricted to individuals, then you are wrong. Times have changed; even established brands are increasingly being targeted by online trolls. This has created a need for strategies on how to handle online trolls and social media trolls.
Some forms of brand trolling is pure humour, but then there are others which are quite malicious.
“You may initially feel that your brand has no emotions like you, so why resist the troll? My friend, your brand has a REPUTATION and that’s what matters the most! So take a timely step,” cautions Kapil Rampal, PR Guru and founder of Creative Crest, a brand-image-management firm in New Delhi.
Bengaluru-based social media entrepreneur Geetika Bhagat backs him, “Trolls attack the integrity of a brand and flourish on the chaos created. It takes time, money and a lot of team work to establish a positive brand image. And one small comment from a troll may not harm the image, but surely will raise a doubt in the minds of customers/ business partners. So nip the problem in the bud.”
Kapil & Geetika list seven effective ways to handle online trolls & social media trolls.
1. Online trolls are different from dissatisfied customers
Trolls aren’t always easy to spot. At times you may assume a dissatisfied customer to be a troll, because he/she is not choosing the right words. So engage in a general conversation first. Once the conversation gets going, then the real trolling begins.
“The advise is always respond to them as a genuine brand, as a human being-the person reading and writing the message, otherwise are humans. If logic fails, use humour, but do not insult. After all you are representing your brand,” asserts Kapil Rampal, founder of Creative Crest.
Geetika adds, “The best way is ask the troll to mail the complain to ascertain his/her credibility. While a customer will send a mail to get the problem resolved, on the other hand the troll will choose to continue to blurt on social media.”
2. Don’t feed the social media trolls
Once you have distinguished trolls from dissatisfied customers, then the fair-play from your end as a Brand is very easy.
“The thumb-rule is DO NOT INDULGE IN AN ARGUMENT. An angry reply from the brand management is the best feeding & thriving ground for a troll. Trolls = no logic, no reason. Thus, dealing with them rationally is a virtual impossibility,” says Geetika Bhagat.
Social media is a public forum and every response from your brand will have a straight reflection on your business. Kapil Rampal says,” Don’t be aggressive, but be assertive instead. Don’t ignore the attacks like Nestle did in case of Maggi. Brands cannot ignore the trolls, if they do they will be at peril (just like Maggi).”
So what do the brands do in such a case?
Simply flag the trolls’ comments as inappropriate, report abuse and monitor comments from other individuals who respond to the troll. Avoid an angry response, stay factually correct in all responses and stay defensive with assertion.
3. Never ignore online trolls vs your follower/critic/employee
Social media is all about building a strong customer base by winning trust of your brand’s followers, critics, customers, employees, etc.
You may not need to respond to a direct trolls, but when it comes to your sincere follower or critique is being trolled, then you must take a strong stand. This way the brand wins trust of both the direct as well as indirect target audience.
Namita Chandna points out, “Don’t delay in taking such an action since this kind of trust built at the spur of the moment, lasts longer and stronger.” Namita is a professor of Social Media Marketing at a reputed University in Mumbai.
Geetika also adds, “If a troll crosses the limit of decency even if in the first post, do not hesitate in deleting the offensive posts; report the matter legally as well as at the host social-media site plus block the troll. If this is not done, the brand could be accused of complacency.”
Besides, every brand must post a warning about online etiquette on its website as well as all social media channels as to what actions will be taken against derogatory trolling.
4. Brand-on-brand trolling: Deal with utmost caution
Yes, brands do troll each other. It can be either via launching a counter advert-campaign on social media or simply to assert their might. Brand-on-brand trolling is often good-natured and in general an agreed-upon plan set up by the social media teams of both brands in tandem with each other.
But, then no plan is always fool-proof! A post that might sound clever and witty to one brand manager, could either be tone deaf or offensive to the other. And that’s where comes the flashpoint!
“Brand-to- brand trolling campaign tends to get backfired; history is full of such-examples. Our advice is not to respond till the senior-most brand manager gives a guideline to entire social media team,” advises Geetika who has a very strong client-base of the some of the best brands in India.
5. Active monitoring of brand’s social media community
For this, the foremost step is to impart social media training to each of your employees who is active in a network infamous for social media trolls. Prevention is always better than cure! Planning and training in advance, is half the battle won.
Experts like Kapil Rampal recommend that brands constantly monitor their social media feeds.
In short, have a good social media team that deals with trolls swiftly and correctly. If you don’t have such a team, refrain from getting your brand on social media before you have one. Or do this monitoring via certain software applications.
“But then, no machine/software can perform correctly in the absence of a human operator. So you can also hire a professional social media agency,” social media expert Geetika gets a nominally-priced solution.
6. Apologise, if need be
Namita wraps up by saying, “A troll may be right in someway, despite not using the right words. If an apology for a factual mistake saves the brand image, save it. But prefer to do that on a mail, unless a public apology is really necessary.”
Mahima Sharma, Columnist TechThirsty
Author is former News Editor CNN-News18 & ANI (a collaboration with Reuters)