Don’t feed the trolls – how to handle negativity on social media for businesses

A sinister creature is sneaking around our favourite social media platforms. Find out how to handle social media trolls plaguing your business here...
By Kaltrina Khan

A sinister creature is sneaking around our favourite social media platforms. It’s lurking on Facebook posts, crawling through Instagram comments, hiding in retweets.  The fiendish beast is ready to attack your meticulously crafted social media posts with mean words and unkind messages.  But who is this horrid troublemaker plaguing your social media strategy? Congratulations! You’ve snagged yourself one of those pesky ‘social media trolls’. Think less blue hair 90’s doll craze, more controversial real person posting online.   

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are used by millions of users around the world each day. These online platforms are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, connect with people with similar interests and find out the latest goings on.  

An internet troll is widely defined online as someone who uses offensive language and controversial statements, often to solicit strong, emotional responses.  Like cockroaches, they surge out of dark corners online and can be incredibly difficult to get rid of.  

Left alone, posts and comments by social media trolls can be very damaging towards your business and tarnish your brand reputation. The good news is trolls can be squashed, and this handy guide will help you navigate the negativity.  

1. Determine if you are dealing with a true troll, or a disgruntled customer 

Any social media professional worth their salt knows how important customer interactions are online. But, there’s a big difference between a troll and a customer who is genuinely upset. Next time you click the ‘notifications’ tab and see a swirl of abuse, take some time to look at the comment, its author and the context. 

Is the post an authentic claim about your business, product or service? Is it a complaint you have received before? Does it have detailed information about your product? Does the author look like a genuine person – do they have a profile picture? Other comments? Do they have any friend connections?

The questions above won’t give you a definitive answer, but they should help you shape more of an understanding of the comment as well as the author’s motivations. Trolls are largely defined as making deliberately inflammatory comments to aggravate and enrage, so if the comment is complaining about the price of your product or how long delivery took, it’s more likely to be a customer who needs a reply. 

2. Don’t take the troll’s words personally  

We’ve all experienced the disappointing feeling when something you have worked hard on doesn’t quite go the way you had hoped. Be it a presentation at work which your boss hates, a burnt anniversary dinner, or that sizzling selfie you posted to Instagram nine hours ago and only your mum has liked. Ouch.

But when it comes to social media trolls, taking anything they say to heart is a waste of your valuable time and energy.  When people are given a shield of anonymity to hide behind, like a pc screen or mobile phone, things can get ugly. 

Online, anyone can say whatever they like and be whoever they want to be, safe in the knowledge there will be few repercussions.  

3. Focus on maintaining a positive, friendly community 

Running a brand’s social media accounts can be hard work. You’re trying to get the right mix between professional and informal, friendly yet informative, ‘salesy’ yet organic. If you have spent time building up your following, interacting with customers, responding quickly and regularly posting, chances are you have a loyal band of supporters who will know a troll’s comments when they see one. 

However, how you handle the troll’s posts can still impact your brand reputation, so it’s important to address them the right way: 

  • Remain positive and upbeat in your response 
  • Make sure your reply is respectful and remain calm when writing it 
  • ‘Kill them with kindness’  
  • If appropriate, use humour 

Your community will be impressed and your brand’s good name remains in tact. #winning. 

4. Correct mistakes 

There’s nothing worse than when you compose a tweet, think long and hard about the hashtags, add the perfect pic, hit post and then you spot it – the dreaded spelling mistake. Twitter pros will know you can’t edit a tweet, and so back you go to the beginning to do it all over again. Frustrating. 

Mistakes can cost brands money and so it’s important to correct them. The worst kind of mistakes are bad reviews of your product or service that simply aren’t true.  But be careful, ‘truth’ can mean one thing to the customer and something else entirely to the business.  If you do catch a genuine mistake in a review or post, respond kindly and with the facts. A reasonable customer will most likely appreciate your response, as you have showed you listened and made an effort to reply. 

A troll on the other hand, is unlikely to care much about your clever comeback and may even use your response to fuel the fire.  If you want to engage further, calmly ask the suspected troll to illustrate their point with some evidence. If you feel the conversation is going nowhere, time to move to a more drastic step…. 

5. To delete or not to delete  

It’s a question that plagues the minds of business owners and social media teams everywhere – should I delete this comment? Deleting comments made by your community can be a real no-no in the social media universe. It can make the brand look unprofessional, or like they are hiding people’s opinions, and in turn could be hiding something else.  But remember social media trolls can be nasty and relentless. You have every right to delete, mute or block accounts causing trouble.  

It’s worth checking out the platform’s policies on reporting abuse and community policies. They can be found by searching in the help sections of the relevant site or listed at the bottom of this post.  Unfortunately, blocking a troll may not be the last you hear of them and it could potentially escalate their behaviour.  

It’s easy to create multiple social media profiles and so a determined troll could easily land back on your page under a different name.  Blocking or deleting comments should be treated as a last resort, as responding respectfully and calmly is a better solution.  

However, if the comments or posts violate the platform’s policies, are abusive or could offend or upset anyone, always follow the guidance given by the relevant site (detailed below). The main thing to remember when managing social media pages is you want to show  your community you are professional brand with a friendly, welcoming online community. 

Make sure your business upholds the standards as set out by the platform.  When managing social media, much like real life, you can’t control what is said, but, you can always control how you respond. #takethehighroad  

For help or advice dealing with internet abuse please follow the policies set out by the platform: 




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