Most people don’t believe in monsters.
But in the online world, they do exist – and if you’re an active user of basically any social media channel, chances are you’ve encountered a few already.
Trolls. More specifically, social media trolls.
They belong under a bridge. But online, they come out in the form of disgruntled people who post disparaging or damaging comments to your social media channels with the intent to provoke you into a fight or upset you or others on your site. Or defile your brand.
But you don’t need to be afraid.
Once you know how to deal with an online troll, they become nothing but jealous, unhappy individuals who will be forced to move on to another outlet where they can get the kind of negative reaction they’re looking for.
So if you’re dealing with social media trolls, here’s 6 sure-fire tips to fend off attacks.
1. Ignore Social Media Trolls
Most social media trolls are leaving comments with the intent of getting a reaction out of you. But you’re better than that.
Avoid engaging with trolls by simply ignoring them.
When you don’t engage, you’re preventing social media trolls from receiving the reaction they’re seeking, so without fulfillment of their intentions, eventually, they’ll get bored and move on.
How can you determine when to ignore and when to respond? Here are some general guidelines:
- IGNORE when a post is an opinion irrelevant to your business, such as, “What kind of twitter page uses the color green so frequently?!?!?!”
- RESPOND when a post is a claim that IS relevant to your business, such as, “I have been trying to reach your customer service department for three days now…why won’t anyone pick up!??” This could be an upset customer, rather than a true online troll.
- IGNORE when the alleged troll’s social page is full of nothing but troll-like comments, directed toward both you and other companies or individuals. If you click on his or her handle and see lists and lists of nasty comments, attacking an assortment of other channels, you’ve likely spotted a true troll looking to bait whoever he or she can into an argument.
- RESPOND when the alleged troll’s social page contains additional content, has a legitimate bio filled out, is linked to a company’s website, etc. These factors all point toward a potential angry customer who is frustrated and seeking immediate assistance.
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but keeping them in mind may help give you a better idea of the kinds of posts you should avoid answering and the kinds you should respond to immediately.
2. Apologize Sparingly
At times, a troll may be a disgruntled customer or client who may be unsatisfied in some way and out of anger or frustration, has taken to social media to publicly voice his or her grievances.
Whether you can or cannot determine if a troll’s claims are legitimate, never publicly issue him or her an apology for a mistake on your part for your entire online community to see.
I’m not suggesting you do so with intent to avoid blame or dismiss the issue without offering assistance. Think about what your parents always told you about how to react after a car accident. You never want to step out of your vehicle and say “I’m sorry!” right away. It’s a verbal admittance of guilt, which shows fault, and, in this case, puts that fault in writing on a public forum.
So everyone can see it. And everyone knows you messed up.
Additionally, a written apology showing your admission of having been the cause of a customer’s distress or loss of money could potentially be used against you, should the individual seek a refund or other compensation later.
If you feel it necessary to apologize publicly, i.e. the issue warrants your acknowledgement of the individual’s distress in some form or fashion, here’s a few example responses you can apply:
- “Apologies for the inconvenience – please send your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will follow up with you shortly.”
- “Thank you for your comment. Our customer service line is down and IT is currently working on correcting the issue. We will post updates on a fix as we receive them.”
- “We are currently experiencing an overwhelming volume of calls. Please send us a DM containing your contact information and we will follow up with you ASAP. Thank you for your patience.”
3. Take it Offline
In the case that you have a disgruntled customer with a potentially legitimate claim, you don’t want to make a heated conversation about your mistake public for everyone (current and potential clients included) to see.
This could potentially put your brand or business in a negative light.
In your reply to the angry comment, after you thank them for their patience, request that they contact you with more detail about their issue via direct message (DM) or email – and include your email address.
This way, you can follow up with them to gather personal information, request further details, come up with a solution – essentially handle the entire issue. In private. Where no further damage to your social presence can be done.
This way, no matter how heated the conversation becomes or what resolution you and your customers agree to, the entire chain is for your and their eyes alone.
As shown in the above examples regarding crafting apologies, another important reason to request follow up information on customers or clients via DM or email is due to the fact that they most likely don’t want to share their email address and phone number with your entire following.
Best case scenario? You wouldn’t have to ask. You would just be able to look these individuals up in your system based on the information provided on their social channel bios, websites, etc.
But when you do have to ask, request that their contact information be sent to you via a private method.
4. Don’t Delete or Hide Comments From Trolls
It may seem intuitive to just delete or hide an angry comment by a disgruntled customer.
Resist the urge.
Hiding or deleting negative customer comments can spark more or worse comments – this time, not only accusing you of a flaw in your service, but you may also begin being accused of “pushing things under the rug” and hiding the fact that you’ve made a mistake.
Essentially, this can make you appear untrustworthy or guilty of engaging in “shady business.”
Leaving a personal, professional response to an upset customer may actually be a positive to your business, as others will see you as willing to meet issues head-on and proactively come up with a solution in a timely manner.
Now, if it’s a REAL troll, just spewing damaging, unfounded comments?
Be careful. Deleting comments can potentially cause trolls to come back – and more aggressively, too.
So when should you delete a comment and when should you just leave it?
Delete comments when they contain:
- Curse words or offensive slang
Racially charged comments
- Comments that imply discrimination to others in any form or fashion (appearance, intelligence, socioeconomic status, etc.)
- Offensive claims directed toward a particular individual (i.e. personal attacks)
Leave comments when they contain:
- Random opinions about your business or channel that are not offensive and that do not contain foul language
- A real customer’s issue that you have already responded to and either are currently or already have handled
Essentially, unless a comment contains curse words or offensive comments to your other followers, just leave it.
Chances are, most people will recognize trolls for what they are and will just by-pass their comments as well.
5. React in a Timely Manner
If you’re dealing with an actual client or customer, make sure you respond to his or her claims as soon as possible.
Allowing angry comments to sit, unanswered, for long periods of time, can both upset your customers further, as well as show your online community that you’re inattentive to service issues by letting problems languish or that you’re unwilling to admit fault or offer compensation for losses.
How long is too long?
Ideally, you will be monitoring your channels at least once a day, sometimes more. Granted, everyone goes on vacation or has a sick day where they can’t gain access to check in and respond, but your ideal range for offering a response to a legitimate angry customer should be 1 day, 24 hours.
Answer more quickly than that? Ideal!
Answer well past that range of time? Not so good.
Some issues, depending what kind of business you’re in, warrant quicker responses than others. Use yourself as a barometer when determining “how long is too long” to offer a response. When would you expect to hear back from a company that you’re a customer of, if you had a similar issue?
6. Block Social Media Trolls
Sometimes social media trolls keep coming for you. Even without a legitimate claim. Just posting and posting strings of offensive comments for no logical or legitimate reason.
Sometimes unhappy customers keep posting angry comments, even after you’ve offered to help or to take things offline.
In these cases, your best option is to block their accounts from posting to your channels.
Granted, this action doesn’t delete these comments from all existence on social media, but it will remove them from the feed on your channel. So while the troll/unhappy customer’s followers can still view these negative comments, visitors to your social channel will no longer see them.
Trolls are Inevitable in Social Media
You run an honest business, you offer great products and services, but you can’t please everyone.
And sometimes, just doing well and achieving greatness is going to attract online haters who may have a beef with you or your business, be envious of your success or may just be so bored or unsatisfied in their own lives and endeavors that they feel the need to pass that negativity on to someone else.
Can social media trolls be prevented?
Yes and no.
Trolls are called trolls because they hide out in the dark recesses of their homes/offices/cars/trains/mom’s basement wherever they are posting from, and sling out harsh and damaging comments using the false sense of power they think they have by remaining anonymous.
So no, you can’t stop someone from spewing unfounded claims about you or your business, for no apparent reason.
But you can do your best to cut off potential customer service issues at the get-go, before they become so big that people feel the need to air their grievances publicly on your channels.
Here’s some food for thought on where you may need to beef up your customer service approach:
- Make sure you or your customer service team has the bandwidth to handle the number of clients you serve. If you aren’t able to hire more people to help, consider reaching out to a company offering call center outsourcing services.
- Ensure your purchase/subscription/login process is as simple as possible. If you need assistance, reach out to a UX (user experience) designer to help you determine if command buttons are laid out intuitively across your website. You’d be surprised what kind of volume a simple, “Where do I sign up?” kind of question can generate.
- Announce upcoming service interruptions or high call volume times ahead of their occurrence. You can’t predict the future. But you may receive advanced notice that your phone lines will be serviced between certain times, on a certain date. Share this information with your followers so they won’t barrage you with angry posts about your customer service within that window.
- Make a link to your “contact us” page readily visible and accessible on your page. And respond to messages in a timely manner. This may help keep comments off of your public social channels and contained within your private email accounts.
At the end of the day…
Chances are, if you have a strong social media presence, you’re going to encounter a troll sometime or another.
But you no longer need to worry.
With these 6 tips on hand, you’ll be more than well-equipped to wrangle that troll back under the bridge that he or she came out from. And keep you or your brand’s reputation intact at the same time.
What’s been your experience with social media trolls? Disgruntled customers?
Do you have any tried-and-true tips that I left out, ones that you know should be included on this list?
Feel free to share them in the comments below.