Fighting the trolls
The number of people who feel bad reviews have the power to make or break their business has risen from 17% (2014) to 21%.* However, most are struggling to find the right solution. Along with the benefits it provides, the internet also has a dark side. To
Trolls are a reality of the internet era; hence organizations need to rethink their strategies to protect their brand reputation, says Zafar Rais, Mindshift Interactive.
The internet is full of people and communities who are dissatisfied with a particular service/ product and want to share their opinions and express their views. Unlike these angry users, who share their negative, but sincerely held beliefs, trolls may not believe a word of what they write. They choose words that have the highest likelihood of upsetting and offending, and use them as a powerful weapon to gain attention. These messages—personal attacks and trivial jokes—often distract and take focus away from relevant issues. In a scenario where brands are in the limelight for being trolled on social media, it is important that your brand is aware of such dangers and knows how to keep them at bay. Brands such as Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, and Ola have stirred up a massive storm by trolling each other too.
Celebrity trolling has also recently gained a lot of attention. We often see popular personalities such as Donald Trump, Anushka Sharma, Shilpa Shetty, and Alia Bhatt among others being trolled. Online trolling has become a matter of concern because of the long-term embarrassment it causes.
Ultimately, the more attention trolls give your brand on social media, the harder it may be to get rid of them. While this is a problem in itself, it may also influence how others feel about your brand. Trolls usually have a high opinion level, driving a fair share of followers to engage with them. This could also influence your potential customers in a negative manner. In such a scenario, blocking a particular account or ignoring a comment is probably not the best decision. No matter what the nature of comment is, you have to hold your ground.
A recent example would be of a popular Indian pan masala brand. Their ad campaign generated a wave of negative comments on social media because audiences were unable to see the fit between the brand and the ambassador. As netizens trolled the ad and posted graphically modified spoofs of the original creatives online, the brand issued a statement through the press to avoid it going viral further and to support its identity.
A respectful and acceptable manner of handling a situation always helps. Hence, it is important that as a brand, you learn the art of managing trolls. Here are a few best practices adhered to by successful brands for managing trolls: plan ahead: In some cases, having said something is as harmful as having said nothing. Handling trolls the wrong way can be a ‘PR crisis’ for you and your business; hence it is necessary to think through your approach in advance. In short, the time to think about how to handle trolls is not when you have just been trolled. Your listening strategy should be designed in a proactive manner for emergencies. Factor in the various cases of troll attacks and design a strategy to be well prepared for them in advance.
The time to think about how to handle trolls is not when you have just been trolled. Your listening strategy should be designed in a proactive manner for emergencies.
be wise with response time: A troll is usually blowing off steam and expecting an agitated conversation. The best time for your response is when the troll has completely vent out his or her ire. However, it should not be
unattended for too long. Remember that an unattended conversation can spread like wild fire. An honest enquiry about the situation will be enough to start the process of positive engagement and open up an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
do not give in: Trolls want you to get irritated, upset, and uncomfortable. No matter how hard it is, ensure you maintain your calm and follow an approach that shows you are sticking to your ground. Keep it humane and acceptable for others viewing the dialog and forming opinions.
make use of tools: There are various tools and plug-ins to battle trolls. They monitor and remove inappropriate comments when they are repeated frequently. There are also a range of applications that allow you to gain insights on the trolls and understand if there is a trend of repeat trolling by the person. A measure of the trolls’clout, frequency of trolling, and background enables you to take an informed approach prior to your response.
double check facts: We all love to post interesting information on our brand page, but sometimes, it is possible that our facts are not accurate. The first step to avoid trolling is that you do not compromise on your research. The online world can be a pitiless place and you cannot have your brand in the news for the wrong reasons. Before posting any information, make sure you verify its sources and double check your facts. admit when you are wrong: If a popular troll points out a mistake you have made, then you should look into it, make amendments, and gracefully accept you were wrong. Being defensive will only make the issue bigger while being honest will allow everyone to move ahead, and probably gain you a few new fans.
stay true: No matter what the nature of complaint is, you need to be true to your brand. This means, every negative feedback must be faced with the same plan of action. You have to be first empathetic and then take things forward. Irrespective of the cause or situation, you need to display a sense of hope so that customers can feel good. Do not be evasive as it might hurt your brand.
The way your brand responds to the feedback it receives says a lot about you. In fact, the responses are under constant analysis by customers who are looking to size up your brand. Social media trolls can make things difficult for the survival of a business as handling aggressive and negative feedback can be quite tricky. Stay aware and work towards winning hearts—of both trolls and audiences who are watching your every response.
However, there is a thin line between healthy chat and below-the-belt slugging. When it comes to a brand, reputation, principles, and sensitivity matter more than anything, especially on a public platform. Make sure you develop a virtual relationship with your audience on social media.
Social media is a marketing channel you cannot and should not ignore. It opens up a world of prospects for your business, and if you are questioning how effective it is or are intimidated by what could transpire out of it, you are living in the past and taking your business down with you too. Learn the art of handling social media and its nuances, thus enabling your brand to embrace the digital world. ■
The first step to avoid trolling is that you do not compromise on your research. The online world can be a pitiless place and you cannot have your brand in the news for the wrong reasons.