When Facebook Trolls Attack: What Not to Do

You’re moving along with your business and your social media, and you’re doing it like a boss. You post interesting and relevant items, you engage your audience -- it all seems to be going your way, except for this one person who just hates you for reasons far beyond your understanding. No matter what you post, they either straight up argue or they spin your innocent commentary into something that seems unforgivable and wrong. And no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get them on your side. Welcome to the world of Facebook trolling.

DontFeedTheTroll650You’re moving along with your business and your social media, and you’re doing it like a boss. You post interesting and relevant items, you engage your audience — it all seems to be going your way, except for this one person who just hates you for reasons far beyond your understanding. No matter what you post, they either straight up argue or they spin your innocent commentary into something that seems unforgivable and wrong. And no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get them on your side. Welcome to the world of Facebook trolling.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a troll is someone who gets their kicks out of going on forums, blogs and social media and spewing bile in the hopes of creating a firestorm of controversy on the page. The more comments made and the more hateful the conversation gets, the more the troll enjoys it. In most cases, the trolls are anonymous, haunting blogs with no registration requirements or spoofing fake identities.

In the case of businesses, they will often target someone and then complain about service or products, usually in as demeaning a way as possible in order to get a reaction.

So what do you do when someone rants about you on your page? Let’s start with the don’ts .

  • DON’T threaten to track their IP address and “find them.”
  • DON’T delete their comments and pretend it didn’t happen (if you have to take comments down, whether due to language or terms-of-service violations, post that that is why the comment is gone).
  • And for the love of all that’s holy, DON’T argue with them!

Take this sterling example of a screen-grab The Huffington Post got off of the Amy’s Baking Company’s page before it was taken down (remember them?). The owners were briefly featured on Gordon Ramsey’s show, Kitchen Nightmares, before being booted for being too difficult. This ignited a storm of commentary on their website. Instead of letting it go or attempting to turn the conversation around, they fired back with profanity-laced diatribes. This was one of the tamer (though still shockingly hilarious) entries:

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 3.12.35 PMThe owners then claimed that their page was hacked and that the FBI was investigating. That’s one way to backtrack (not a GOOD way, but certainly a way).

Along the same lines, if a customer-service associate offers to masquerade as a client and attack the haters, DON’T! In fact, think twice about whether you want that associate on the job in the first place.

By the same token, you shouldn’t be farming out your social media responses to interns or anyone not schooled in “what’s appropriate online” in the first place. Just being young and knowing about social media doesn’t make you social-media-savvy.

Whoever is responding on your business’ behalf should at least have a solid working knowledge of your company, have the permission to address tricky issues and have the training to know how to communicate your responses without being argumentative or pedantic (unless your branding says otherwise, of course).

Successful social media types have skin made of Teflon (nothing sticks), and it’s so tough that it makes an elephant’s look like tissue paper. Think Kevlar with a positive attitude. Carbon fiber. Diamonds? You get the point.

So what do you do?

There is no simple solution, because trolls attack harder when ignored but become validated when they get a response. So the best bet when someone posts negatively is to respond, but do it in a way that shows that you care about their feelings and their patronage. Empathize and apologize for the hurt (no matter how ridiculously sensitive the person may be). It is not necessary to put on your hair shirt and start publicly beating your breast in atonement (although that would be a pretty funny video), but just showing that their concerns are noted and you want to help can go a long way toward creating positive social media buzz.

As always, there will be those gadflies who just won’t stop buzzing around your page no matter what you say. If the person has a legitimate beef (not just trolling), the first course of action is to reach out and offer to take the discussion offline. In many cases, giving that amount of personal attention will turn the tide. However, sometimes there is just nothing that will satisfy that person, and the one thing you can do to stop the constant negative feedback is to ban them.

Dropping the ban hammer may not get the result you want, though. More likely, the troll will spoof another ID and be back at it even harder.

Another option is to hide their comments, and they’ll THINK they’re still visible when they aren’t and can post as often — and as insanely — as they like.

Regardless of which option you follow, the key is not to feed into the negativity. Be polite, use humor if appropriate, but DON’T argue!

Trolls tend to stay where the vitriol and anger are the highest. If there isn’t much response from your site, they’ll move on to more easily angered prey.

Readers: How do YOU handle Facebook trolls?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.