Dealing with internet trolls: a wrestler's guide

They're out there. Here's what you need to know when dealing with the internet's least pleasant residents.

Trolls. They were more fun in the 90s.

Since the rise of the web, they've moved from under the bridge, into the comments section.

Long before you ever meet a troll, your brand has to have a plan. This means clearly posting community guidelines for whatever your communications space is. That way, if someone violates the rules, you can kick them out, said Gartner analyst Jennifer Polk.

When you do run into a troll, try and find out who the troll is - just because they're complaining about your company, doesn't necessarily mean they're trolling for the sake of trolling. Sometimes people are just upset, and helping the person (provided they actually want to be helped; this can be an indicator of whether you're dealing with a troll or not) can turn into a positive thing.

"Don't feed the trolls, but don't dismiss them, either," said Emily Harris, content marketing manager for digital marketing agency Rockhouse Partners.

Also, the person in question might be an influential member of your online community.

So just don't delete negative comments. That can incite a backlash in itself.

That said, monitor the troll. Depending on the situation, the negativity might peter out. There are even instances where the community will step up and deal with the troll, because individuals have had a good customer experience. And if you help someone who is legitimately upset, sometimes you can turn that critic into a fan. "You've made something sour into something sweet, and it lingers," Harris said.

Or, the situation could escalate. That's why you need to track it.

That plays into the last step. Have a workflow in place so you know when to actually react and how, and if anyone else in the company needs to be looped in. For example, legal might have to get the heads up if there are comments pertaining to a matter that's in litigation, or, if there's a misuse of a company logo or trademark, Polk said.

(Thumbnail image: Wikimedia Commons/Gil)

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