Trolls, they’re like the Grinch. They can suck the joy out of a blog. Even the most established blogs encounter trolls. In fact, it’s one of the indicators that you’re beginning to do well, or are doing well, because trolls like attention, and they wouldn’t get that in a blog that doesn’t have a thriving audience yet.
When you cross-post on social media platforms, the more exposed you are to trolls, too. YouTube is particularly notorious for ad hominem comments.
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you the solution: ignore them. Don’t engage.
When they’re just being nasty, treat them like barking dogs. Walk on. Carry on. They’re just making noise.
But to spare yourself the stink of these Grinches, here are blog hacks to repel and quiet them.
I love it when people are so engaged and passionate in a topic that they argue about it. And oh, sometimes it’s delicious to see them agreeing to disagree. It restores your faith in humanity.
But of course there would be trolls. It’s easy to spot them. Some of them are intelligent and disguise their trolling with on-topic observations, but their true colors soon reveal themselves.
- Trolls pick fights. Sooner or later, they’d employ ad hominem comments– that is, personal attacks to the original poster or the other commenters.
- Because they want to provoke an emotional response. They’re not content with a lively debate. They want anger.
- A huge sense of entitlement. You’d see this in their…
- … exaggeration and generalization. They like doing ‘blanket’ comments like ‘women’ ‘men’ ‘Asians’ ‘Europeans’ ‘you people’ because these usually provoke people.
How do you differentiate between an angry customer and a troll?
You don’t want to ignore an irate customer who does have a legitimate complaint along with an acid temper. Often, addressing these customers could turn them into your most loyal!
A dissatisfied or disappointed customer has this in common with a troll: they want to be acknowledged. But where the angry customer would be motivated by a desire for an apology and a remediation, trolls just want to attack you, whether they feel it as their ‘duty’ to warn others about you, or as some form of revenge, or for no reason at all.
- A troll isn’t looking for a solution. They just prolong the discussion. A legitimate customer who has a complaint might rant about your faults but would subside once they have aired their grievances, and once you have apologized about your mistakes. Trolls just go on and on and wouldn’t leave anyone in peace even after he/she has been acknowledged.
- Trolls want to fight. They are motivated by the desire to upset people. The comments are no longer professional or on-topic. It becomes personal attacks to whoever replies to them. If they begin to be truly disparaging to you and your business, that’s it. They’re trolling.
1. Make a comment policy visible. This wouldn’t guarantee that you’d deter trolling, but declaring outright that trollish comments will be deleted takes a lot out of their steam. They wouldn’t bother. They might not be seen anyway.
2. Don’t give them an easy outlet for their anonymous disinhibition. Disinhibition is defined by Academic Earth in their study as “the phenomenon wherein one abandons social inhibitions that would normally be present in face-to-face interactions.”
Trolls love trolling when they’re anonymous, because it’s where they don’t have to watch what they say. They can be as mean and as provoking as they want.
Integrate Disqus and Facebook comments so that people create accounts that would make them accountable for what they say online. Of course, people would and do create fake accounts, but other commenters call them out on it, on their cowardice.
People can and do get fired due to their online shenanigans, so only the ones with nothing to lose are brave enough. And even then, they take care not to cross too many lines.
3. Moderate comments. There are pros and cons to this one. Readers usually prefer to see their comment instantly so others can also comment immediately. Also, you might want to show comments fast so that others would also be enticed to comment.
But if you moderate all comments, trolls wouldn’t be given their spotlight at all.
If you’d use comment moderation– it’s a good idea to have an assistant (virtual or in-office) dedicated to read and publish so that legit commenters don’t even feel that they’ve been moderated.
4. Disable comments. You’d want reader engagement in every blog post, of course. I wouldn’t recommend disabling comments in a blanket fashion. But if you happen to post something you feel would be such a playground for trolls, disable comments to THAT post.
5. Ignore them. They want attention. Don’t give them what they want.
6. Respond with dignity and grace. Take the higher ground and give them a sincere response. Correct what they pointed out and thank them for their criticism. Don’t be confrontational, no matter what their tone. If the troll took notice of you because of a mistake, a typo, etc., correct it and thank the troll. If they asked a question, answer it. Don’t acknowledge any other disparaging comments.
7. Keep it impersonal and professional. If you do respond, especially to defend yourself or to state facts, stick to the facts. Apple had no end of bullying and trolling–even from other companies!–after BendGate. But they simply responded with this:
“With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus. As with any Apple product, if you have questions please contact Apple.”
They acknowledged the criticism (the bending), they clarified the exaggerated rumors (only 9 customers in total reported a bent phone) and they pointed out that they are listening and ready to serve customers with questions and concerns.
They gave facts, they acknowledged their customers, and promised customer service. Nothing more. They stayed professional about it.
There’s nothing a troll can respond to any longer.
8. Keep it unemotional. If you have free time and want to demonstrate your wit by facing a troll head-on, be as cool as possible. In the spirit of Christmas, you could even fight back quite happily and cheerfully. It’s like a jedi baiting a Sith. Use humor!
Trolls hate nothing more than ‘victims’ who refuse to be victimized, but are fighting back instead, and quite cheerfully! Hah!
9. Let your regulars do the job. One of the most delicious aspects of blogging is when you have built a thriving little community. Of course, you want this community as friendly and welcoming as possible. So establish it. Have zero tolerance for personal attacks.
Soon, it’s like having a bar and having regulars who talk to you and to each other, discussing things amicably. Now and then, strangers come in and, instead of loving and joining in the friendly atmosphere, try to pick fights. Your regulars would quell him/her quickly.
Like in a real bar, of course, this could escalate in a direction you don’t want, so cast a beady eye and use your right to kick the troll out.
10.Delete the comment and block. When you and your readers have done #5 to #9 and the troll is beginning to wear on you all, delete and block.
I don’t recommend immediate deletion– some trolls delight in this and would just post again.
But if you give the troll some attention and he/she still doesn’t shut up, deletion and blocking would be as much a relief to the troll too, especially if he/she had been soundly trounced anyway, and was just doggedly persisting out of trollish principle.
Which of these tips have you successfully employed against trolls? Let’s fondly remember our trolls and wish them well. Share your stories in the comments!