Trolls are not those horned, ugly cave dwelling dwarfs or giants. Today, trolls are snarky netizens lurking online who attack an individual or business on digital platforms. Their purpose might be to seek revenge or to simply annoy, to complain or to condescend, based on a difference in ideology or not but always with an intention to irk.
If you have spent some time online on social media, you’re sure to have come across trolls in one form or another. If not, you will do so soon. They are quite everywhere. The anonymity that digital platforms offer, embolden ordinary people to become digital trolls and their ilk is on the rise.
Celebrity twitterati has often faced abusive trolls online, especially women who have spoken their minds. Also at risk are businesses who might have a disgruntled customer deciding to use social media to rave and abuse.
Here are some tips to deal with these Trolls:
- Listen if they have a valid point
- Apologize if you have made a mistake
- Respond with facts and counter points
- Don’t engage once you have identified a troll
- Ignore as long as the rant is non-violent
- Report and Block
- Seek help if the rant contains a threat of violence
Angry customers who are net smart make it a point to be heard online – they tag and tweet, they rant on your timeline, make videos and share on whatsapp…the damage they can cause to your online reputation is immense. But most of these irate customers are just that – they are irate and will be pacified if you quickly respond to their complaints. There have been many instances where they have even agreed to take down posts once their grievance has been addressed. So, listen to such tantrum throwers and quickly turn them into happy clients and maybe even advocates for your brand.
There is no shame in apologizing since customer is always King. Remember the case of Zomato when a video surfaced with their delivery man polishing off tiny portions of the food to be delivered? The business did not try and cover this up. They owned up to this, apologized and also announced a quick fix to the problem by affixing a seal to all the delivery boxes. The hullabaloo that might have been created over it died down after a few troll memes in a few weeks. It’s now back to business for food deliveries.
There are times when brands get accused online with prejudiced views or half-truths. A quick response in such situations with facts and figures to counter allegations can contain the situation.
If you have done all three of the above and still face criticism and vociferous attacks online, it is important to stop engaging with such netizens. Recall the recent “Kumbh Mela” ad by HUL which faced flak from right wingers online. After issuing an apology and redacting the slightly abusive descriptive content that went with the ad, HUL simply stayed quiet until the furore died down on its own. There were even calls for boycotting their products but the company knew from experience that these kind of public sentiments are short lived and simply stopped engaging with trolls. There is an alternate theory that this incident in fact resulted in more sales for HUL, debating which is beyond the scope of this post.
Ignoring trolls is fine as long as the attacks are only online and don’t pose a risk to the security of the individual or business under attack. Even when you have stopped engaging with trolls, it is difficult to escape noticing their attacks if the trolling continues for a long time. While it might be annoying, it is still a good option to ignore trolls and carry on with your business, as long as there is no physical threat.
Report and Block
Social Media Platforms offer you peace and quiet by enabling you to Report and Block accounts that cause you grief. Most social media platforms are efficient at taking down posts and accounts if the abuse in their messages are widely reported. But even without waiting for official action, it is easy to stay blind and deaf to abuse by blocking accounts that are annoying or hurtful on purpose.
When trolls breach limits of privacy and pose a threat physically or show intent of doing so, it is best to seek help. Police forces now have separate cyber security cells that are quite good at identifying threats and neutralizing them. Individuals and sometimes businesses do the mistake of making the counter-complaints just online instead of taking it to the Police. It is always a safer and better bet to seek professional help from law enforcers.
Social Media is a great tool for connecting with friends and followers and allowing a few trolls to ruin that experience is unnecessary, if not foolish. Sometimes trolls are not entirely unsavoury since in the words of P.T. Barnum, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”.