If you’ve spent much in social media, you’ve probably been warned not to “feed the trolls.”
Trolls, as Wikipedia will tell you, are defined as “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”
Give them gasoline and a match, and they’ll start a fire on your blog. So don’t feed them content that might encourage them to, you know, troll.
But not feeding the trolls is a lot easier said than done. Why? Because trolls eat anything. The web to them is like an all you eat buffet.
Write a post about your favorite breakfast diner and a troll will claim you’re sleeping with the owner.
Write a post about proper grammar and a troll will find every grammatical mistake you’ve made since kindergarten and share it in your comment section.
Write a post about how you advocate for the fair treatment of trolls and they’ll claim you’re taking money from the Pro Troll Association. They won’t stop there. Then they’ll assert your ethics should be questioned and your bias should be exposed.
Their mission is to discredit your authority.
If you can type it, a troll can find a reason to hate it. It (unfortunately) comes with the territory of web publishing.
So how can you deal with the potential trolls that might disrupt your comment section? Well since there’s no way to eradicate the behavior, do the one thing you can do: get started with a solid blog comment policy.
1. Let the truth stand
People tend to find out the truth anyway, and censoring valid viewpoints or complaints is a recipe for a PR disaster. If it’s true it might hurt, but transparency is the best policy when dealing with your audience. Transparency gains trust, especially when owning up to your company’s mishaps.
Afraid you can’t take the heat? A post “Corporate Blogging Do’s and Don’ts”, reported that not censoring complaints, allowing them to stand and then responding honestly will actually cause your company’s credibility to rise—hey, your audience is probably more understanding than you give them credit for.
So turn that social media blunder into a positive open forum in your comments section. A study showed that when companies listened and proactively responded to disgruntled customers, 33% turned around and posted a positive review and 34% deleted their original negative review. Rub that troll’s belly and they may purr.
2. Don’t tolerate hate
There’s a great post that talks about approaches to managing community on a website (If You’re Website is Full of A**holes, It’s Your Fault). Yes that is the post’s title. So when in doubt use this quick rule: if it doesn’t pass the living room test, don’t let it on your website.
Don’t discourage passion just don’t encourage attacks on authors or other commenters. Inappropriate profanity or unconstructive criticism doesn’t bring any value to your post or your blog’s community. So don’t allow it—simple enough.
3. Be proactive
Actively monitor your blog’s comments and be proactive not reactive with responses. Acting defensively to worried or angry fans will only strip your business of its integrity.
Learn a lesson from Versace’s slip-up. After protestors covered their wall with vulgar messages about the production process for their new jean line, they disabled their (Facebook) page’s comment section. This goes to show you, not all PR is good, but if handled correctly taking the backlash head on with an apology can go a long way. Removing the voice of your audience will only continue the uproar to some other forum where you can’t monitor and coax it.
4. Keep the conversation relevant
As the blog’s author it’s your responsibility to steer the discussion toward the posted topic. Trolls are lurking waiting to switch the focus over to your company’s poor social media initiatives or some other irrelevant piece of information.
Acknowledge the comment, kill them with kindness then move on by keeping the thread on track. Other commenters will be grateful and the discussion will go on.
So go ahead leave a comment, I’m sure you want to. But here let me help you keep the conversation relevant with a question:
What’s in your blog’s comment policy?
Here are some great examples of comment guidelines: