How to deal with internet trolls.

Don’t add fuel to the fire.

With social media connections growing exponentially, the possibility of people disagreeing with your views increases respectively. With this in mind, a special breed of people, termed "Trolls" have arisen. As of late, Trolls are gaining the media spotlight and as such Vivo Group has complied some tips and tactics to assist you in combating them.

What are Trolls?

A Troll is a person who seeks to cause a commotion and gain attention by persistently hijacking your online presence whilst inundating you with negative and abusive comments. Trolls engage in order to increase self worth. They play off every interaction and become more fuelled and persistent the larger the argument becomes. They do not have legitimate grievances and do not want to talk rationally. Rather, they wish to ruin your reputation at every opportunity possible. Trolls hide behind their usernames and seek maximum anonymity.

Not a fine line.

Users must keep in mind that posting negative comments does not simply class one as a Troll. Some frustrated fans choose to connect with the respective company via the internet. If they are infact a disgruntled fan (not a Troll) you should aim to publicly resolve their issue. By publicising the resolution process you are able to gain more fans by indicating the brands commitment and dedication to resolving issues. If they are a disgrunteled customer, and you are unable to solve the issue publicly, you could contact them via private message and offer them discounts, vouchers etc.

Tips & Tactics

1. Don't add fuel to the fire

As per the golden rule, if you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything at all. If you react to the negativity, your business will most likely suffer and gain a negative image. Trolls thrive on attention and seek to cause offence and receive a reaction. Although tempting, it is not constructive to show them the error of their ways as logic, reason and statistics only amp them up. Whatever you do, do not respond with negative comments, this indicates to the Troll that you are bait and it allows them to set the ground rules. Overall Trolls are best handled by ignoring them.

2. Be respectful

Online communities to not sit well with negative, attacking and constant content. Posting negative comments will most likely result in the community supporting the victim - making the aggressor look worse. Although it is hard to sit and watch an attack, you need to focus on maintaining your brand image and reputation. Remember: You are in control and have options!

3. Have a crisis plan

It is important that all companies have a specific and detailed crisis plan. As such, when implemented you have the ability to spin a negative comment into a positive brand opportunity.

4. Competitors

They say any publicity is good publicity. With this in mind, if your competitors are dull enough to be the Troll and post about you online then let them - as it is an opportunity to spread your brand name in a positive light. This tactic has the ability to increase the possibility of obtaining a broader audience of potential clients. If your competitors are threatened by your success, consider their attacks a tremendous compliment. Furthermore, remember that while your getting on with business, your rivals most likely are not.

5. Privacy Settings

By employing tight privacy settings, you are able to control who is able to engage with you and where they are able to engage. As such we strongly advise that you control your setting so that Trolls have a lower possibility in being able to affect your online environment.

6. Know your enemy

You should seek to find as much information about your Troll as possible. Can you find any information about them on their profile? Do they use a faceless profile picture? Is the other content on their site negative? In any battle it is important to understand and identify your opponent. You should also take a screenshot of the comments. Thus if the matter needs to be escalated, you will be fully prepared and able to identify your Troll

7. Take the high road

By nature, Trolls are persistent especially when they are not gaining the attention they desire. They will most likely come back and attack harder and stronger. As such it may be increasingly difficult to ignore them. If this is the case, you may wish to respond with a neutral comment along the lines of "Thank you for your feedback". Such comment will indicate that you are not interested and will not buy into their antics. Alternatively, the best way to move away from a negative topic, is to change it into a positive one.

8. Block or Delete

If all else fails you can delete or block your Troll. In saying that, to employ such strategy you need to monitor your online presence closely. This is because the majority of internet users do not appreciate any type of censorship with comments and posts. As such you need to monitor your online presence closely and delete the comments before the general public notice it.

9. Not Tolerated

Most sites (including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) have an anti-bullying policy and as such they have implemented the "report abuse" function. We recommend ignoring the trolls but use your tools to your advantage and select the Report Abuse button if you feel the need.

10. Set some ground rules.

If you have a platform whereby people can comment on your site, set up some ground rules. Let it be known that although you appreciate feedback, complaints and constructive criticism, any continual negative comments will not be tolerated. Thus, if a Troll does not leave negative feedback, you can delete the comment and let your fans know why. At the end of the day it is your online space, so make your own rules.

11. Listen

Although it is hard for anyone to hear negative comments, it is important to listen and know what is being published about your company. Trolls typically act in extreme ways, however you may be able to identify some distinct issues that other customers may be genuinely experiencing. In essence, use the negatives to your advantage by analysing your business and indentifying if the problem is infact an issue.

12. Exiting

If Trolls have forced you to leave the cyber world please do not encourage them by letting them know so. Remember that encouragement and attention is all they are after. By you leaving, and making it public the Trolls win.

We're are not going to lie, dealing with Trolls is frustrating and testing at the best of times. If you get caught up in the Troll spectacle there is a high possibility that it could ruin your brand reputation and in fact cause more damage to your brand than ever expected. As such, stand your ground and remember that it is your online space and it is under your total control.

The Daily Telegraph has launched a #StopTheTrolls petition. Sign the petition here.

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