A Guide to Handling Internet Trolls

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       By: Ben Okun

In Scandinavian and Norse mythology, trolls have generally resided in dark caves or scary places that no one wants to visit. Today, trolls reside in some of the most heavily populated places, dominating social media, blogs and comment sections on websites. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, “internet trolls” are essentially hecklers, people who start arguments online by posting upsetting, inflammatory or off-topic messages that are deliberately used to generate an emotional response. This can be categorized as online harassment, and these trolls often harass public or prominent figures in the media. If you are a target of trolling and have received messages or comments from trolls, it is important to know how to react, so that you can keep your image and brand intact. Here are some tips to use to do away with these nasty Internet trolls:

1.  Have a Witty Response

The whole reason trolls do what they do is to generate a response and receive attention. It’s easy to just fire back at trolls in the heat of the moment, but this could lead to something you might regret later. Feeding a troll is one of the worst things you can do and getting into a back and forth war is exactly what they want. So before you comment back, think carefully about what you want to say and how you’d like to portray yourself because your reputation is on the line, especially on social media where your followers can see the entire exchange. By taking your time and composing a witty, humorous response, your acknowledgement of the troll might end the conversation and leave them satisfied, while also building your brand and getting some laughs.

Erin Andrews executed this strategy to perfection this week. One of her followers tweeted at her “Hearing @ErinAndrews voice makes me want to hang myself with dental floss… #SoAnnoying.” Andrews retweeted this message and responded “Plz say it’s mint flavored tho.” Short, sweet, thought-out (maybe) and definitely earned some laughs and respect from her followers. Most importantly, it shut up the troll. Well done Erin!

2. Utilize your Privacy Settings

Regardless of what media platform you are on, it’s always good to know the basic privacy and function controls. This goes further than making sure your username and password are secure. Many platforms allow you to block certain users from accessing your profile, posting on your forums and replying to your tweets. You can filter out undesirable material that doesn’t reflect your brand. Blocking someone is a form of privacy and you have every right to do this, because those who are blocked are still able to use the platforms, just not be in contact with you. Be sure to use caution when blocking or filtering trolls. Don’t just delete a post that is disagreeing with or criticizing your work. You don’t want to come across as biased or stubborn. In order to be a successful brand, it’s important to tolerate differing opinions and perspectives. Utilize your privacy settings to your discretion, but do not overdo them and make it impossible for people to communicate with you, especially if you are an emerging or prominent brand. Believe it or not, but not all trolls are bad!

3. Differentiate Between Trolls and Threats

I’ll say it again; not all trolls are bad! Most trolls are annoying, but some can be pretty funny. With that being said, it’s important to draw the line somewhere and be able to distinguish between a (harmless) troll and an actual threat. A lot of times trolls will say mean or disturbing things, but you can read between the lines and identify them as a troll. Anything that you feel may be a direct threat towards you personally, do not be afraid to report. Take a screenshot or save potentially threatening messages, should the situation escalate. It can also be good to retweet a threatening post, because it can gain the law enforcement’s attention and alert your followers. Having thick skin is a great quality, but no one should be subjected to threats or comments that cross the line. Showing that you can tolerate trolls should build credibility towards your brand, but never feel like you have to tolerate threats.

4. Don’t take it Personally

Congratulations! If you’re being trolled, chances are you are somewhat of a public figure and have achieved a relative amount of success, so be proud of yourself. Do not take trolling personally. Not everyone is going to like you or agree with everything you have to say. Even the most popular, beloved celebrities have “haters” or trolls out to get them. Moreover, if you’re operating a company’s account, whether that be on social media or other websites, understand that trolls are attacking the perceived brand, not you directly. Most likely, you are just an outlet for their unwarranted comments and they’re the one with issues. If you don’t feeling like responding to trolls with something clever, just ignore them and keep doing what you’re doing. Obviously, you’re doing something right if you have any sort of following to begin with, and they are probably just jealous of your success.

As always, we welcome any and all comments and if you like what you read, be social and share. 

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