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Don’t Feed The Trolls

As Twitter becomes the latest social media platform to roll out new anti-abuse features to fight against online harassment, it’s apparent that trolling is still a major problem for those wanting to use social media for the right reasons. Whether trolling takes place against a person or a brand, it’s happening.

All. The. Time.

So, just how can we as communications experts stop it? In short, we can’t. But what we can do is try to prevent online communities or brands from becoming targets in the first place.

There will always be ‘keyboard warriors’, and the more social media platforms a brand has, the more it opens itself up to being a target and the harder it becomes to control. However, how a brand responds can either encourage further trolling, or prevent it.

For example, we’ve all seen witty brand comments in response to a troll go viral (ahem Wendy’s!). But this can also increase the level of negative interaction a brand receives, as trolls react in their own way for a few seconds of viral fame.

As such a brand has to be consistent – whether that is to constantly ignore and block trolling behaviour, or instead take a stance to respond with smart, witty comebacks. However, no matter what, responding to trolls needs to align with a brand’s tone of voice. For example, it just wouldn’t do to see the NHS Twitter account getting sassy towards social media users!

Whilst humour may sometimes seem the best way to respond, it also has the opportunity to fall-flat (different people do, of course, have different senses of humour). Once a comment is online, it’s very hard to go back (even if it is deleted after a few seconds) and users are extremely quick to screenshot posts.

Therefore, it is crucial to think ahead about how to combat certain topics and be consistent with the brand’s tone of voice. Strict media guidelines for those managing these channels have to be implemented which ensures there’s a ‘rulebook’ that can be referred to when trolling or complaints take place online.

Brands and individuals should also avoid posting anything too controversial. It’s very easy to jump on the bandwagon and commentate on political or cultural topics, but these can be emotive and with one view, comes a counter-argument.

In reality, the only way to protect your own channels and avoid backlash is to simply post comments or content that is relevant to your brand or industry and avoid anything that may reflect personal views or ignite controversy. Remember – don’t feed the trolls!