What is an Internet Troll and How Should You Deal With Them?

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Photo credit: aboveallprecious

You may have seen them leaving off-color remarks on blogs, or always being negative on Twitter but Internet Trolls can be serious business. If you haven’t run into them first hand, you should probably be prepared to and have an idea of how your business will deal with them.

What is an Internet Troll?

Internet Trolls are internet users who find enjoyment in attacking and criticizing other people’s content. Their mission is usually to get a reaction from the person they are attacking or from their network.

An internet troll can be found in the comment sections of blogs, on social networks, in message boards and more. Their protocol is usually to comment on someone else’s content or profile in a negative and sometimes controversial manner to try to get a reaction.

Where the damage can occur to your business is in how you react to an internet troll. Your comments are as much of your marketing as your original post or profile.

Wikipedia Defines Troll (Internet)
In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

As you become an authority in your industry, you are more susceptible to trolls. Remember when your mother told you that kids were mean to you because they were jealous? Well the same applies here but with grownups and new tools for malicious behavior. As you establish yourself as an authority and broadcast to your network what your point of view is on a topic, you have put yourself out there and need to be prepared for trolls to try to get a rise out of you.

Sonia Simone from Copyblogger had a great post called The Dark Side of Authority where she explains that we all know being an authority in our industry is what we want, but trolls are one of the downsides of being an ‘expert’. She goes on to say that it is human nature to admire authority, but it is also human nature to for some to resent authority.

How to Deal With an Internet Troll

First things first, an internet troll is looking for a reaction so carefully consider your response or your decision not to respond.

Here are a few tips for dealing with internet trolls:

  • Have a plan first – As with all things we talk about with internet marketing, it is important to have a plan first. This could be a conversation with anyone who is participating in your business blog and social networks or an official policy on how to respond to off-color comments. Going into the situation blindly without considering the possibilities means you could be more prone to having a gut reaction, and giving the troll exactly what they are looking for, attention.
  • Approach each comment as constructive – As many of us have learned the hard way, there is no tone in written text. You cannot tell when someone is being sarcastic, or trying to be funny, maybe had a typo, or shouldn’t have read your blog after that martini and they misunderstood your content. Treat each comment like it had good intentions. Some will be very easy to tell that they are malicious but if it is borderline, treat it like it had the best of intentions.
  • Delete content that hurts your network – I think leaving negative comments on your blog or profile is usually ok, if not good. It shows debate or lets you realize how other people view your opinions and you can have some really great conversations that help you grow. You should delete content that attacks another member of your network, has profane language or that you find offensive. You don’t want to be the arena that one of your readers gets into an argument with a troll.
  • Say ‘Thank You’ – If there is a comment or a tweet that I think is malicious but I don’t have anything constructive to add, I will just say a simple ‘thank you for your comment’ or ‘thank you for your perspective’. That way, they know they were heard but they did not get a big reaction out of me.
  • Follow up – On at least a dozen occasions someone has said something hurtful about me, my work or my company I have followed up and made a relationship out of it. A few have even become partners I refer work to. A whiny tweet could just be someone else who provides similar services but thinks their way is better, a cry for attention to view their work or a faceless crime and when you meet them face to face they are guilt ridden for their comment.

Dealing with internet trolls or off-color remarks is definitely a case by case and company by company basis. You need to do what is best for your business, your employees, your network and you. If you are prepared beforehand, you will probably have better results versus a petty battle of words in the comments section of your blog.