Some facts in life are simply irrefutable. It snows in Chicago in the wintertime. Baby bunnies are cute. And trolls lurk on the Internet. Just what is a troll? you ask. A troll is, according to writer Tim Dowling in his 2012 article for The Guardian, “Dealing With Trolls: A Guide,” someone who uses social media outlets, such as blog comments and Twitter feeds, to purposely create conflict “through mindless abuse.” These are people who join conversations on the web with no other intent than to derail those conversations. The abuse can include, according to Dowling, “needling, hectoring, or even threats of violence.”
The Internet invites spirited conversations of all kinds. People disagree — and even disapprove — of each other’s work, products, passions, and life choices. There’s nothing wrong with that. Mindful conversation can be stimulating and informative. If you own a business, this kind of interaction is just what you need. You want people to respond to the blog posts and social media messages your freelance writers have so artfully created. This interaction keeps you in touch with your customer’s needs. The traffic alone can increase your site’s page ranking. But, what happens when this interaction turns ugly? That’s when you have a troll infestation.
Trolls can denigrate your company and your products. Trolls can make other visitors uncomfortable. Trolls can drive business away. If you find you have a troll, you need to address the problem. Here are a few things to try.
- Remain calm – Trolls hope to incite anger and frustration. Don’t give them what they want. If at all possible, address the topic they’ve brought up in a calm and even-toned manner. If you respond with anger or personal attacks, you’ve only fed your troll, making him stronger. You also run the risk of making yourself look a little troll-like. You don’t want to do that. Take the high road. Use this opportunity to show the other visitors to your site the very image you want to project: one of professionalism and courtesy.
- Ignore them – Trolls are the playground bullies of the Internet. They are most likely insecure and unhappy people. They don’t receive positive attention in their lives, so they settle for the next best thing: negative attention. Don’t give it to them. If nasty, provocative comments show up on your website, ignore them. Deliberately respond to the more even-handed comments around them, and deny the trolls the attention they crave. Without that attention, most trolls will wander away, looking for greener pastures.
- Delete them – You website and your social media outlets are yours and yours alone. And, while you would never want to leave serious questions and concerns unanswered, hateful, or meaningless comments on your blog do not belong there. Track your social media presence carefully. When you see signs of trolls, remove them. Delete useless and antagonistic comments. Turn off the comments option on your blog if you need to. Just because a troll is looking for a soapbox, doesn’t mean you have to provide one.
Kate C writes by day and steers clear of trolls by night. She lives in the desert but dreams of the mountains. She shares her home with her husband of 27 years and a fat, sassy Boston terrier named Tess.