Trolling today is a global menace and any brand can come under the attack with or without any agenda, hence the question brands are trying to answer is not, what if they get trolled but when? No brand today can be completely immune to trolling because you never know what part of your communications can be perceived wrongly.
Oxford dictionary defines ‘troll’ as “an ugly creature depicted either as a giant or dwarf.” Trolls attack the integrity of the brand, they provoke and incite hatred. They thrive on the commotion they create and unfortunately normal netizens sometimes even team up with them.
Trolls today can make or break the brand, it takes a lot of time and money to build a positive brand personality and it may take just a comment on a social platform to impact the reputation that took years to build.
The problem today is that polarization is at an all-time high fueled by social media and even traditional media divided. In such times, brands need not only worry about the claims they make in their communications are factually correct but also ensure that nothing in the communication affects any of the political or ideological sides. Resulting, brands are erring on the side of being over-caution.
Social media today has given voice to everyone wielding a smartphone and we as brand custodians have to listen to those voices. Having said that listening not always necessarily mean reacting and responding.
The playbook on responding to trolling, says that the brands need to first monitor the situation closely if the negativity does not die-down in 48 hours, they need to respond with a thoughtful, legally vetted response, through official channels. This may not be the right fit for all situations as certain polarized issues need a customized and more thoughtful solution that takes into account multiple factors.
Trolls are usually unaffected to logic and reason, which means you cannot deal with them using rationality and emotional response never works. They never want resolution but seek attention from the brand they are trolling.
Brands should be able to differentiate between trolls and real individuals. They can do that by paying attention to the content and motive of the negative comment. If the comment is coming from a disgruntled stakeholder, they would ideally be expressing frustration and not hatred. Real concerns can be addressed and trolls need not be fed. However, when trolls get on to insulting your customers or your employees, brands need to respond to protect their stakeholders.
In situations when brands are being trolled unfairly and unnecessarily, they can choose to bring forward brand loyalists and brand influencers to respond to trolls and offset the negativity. Brands also have the right to delete all kinds of outright defamatory and abusive comments from their pages. Report unrelenting abusers and block them, while responding to genuine feedback by taking it offline. There is yet no right answer to deal with trolls, it will always be situational but the starting point for any kind of negativity management on social media starts with listening. Are you listening enough?