How to Handle Twitter Trolls

Trolls are a fact of the Internet, they hide behind their screens and made-up personas, and everyone who administrates a blog or a social media page has to deal with them occasionally. So what’s the best approach? The answer is simpler than you might expect.

Rule number one for businesses that choose to be present on social media is to really be present. There’s no point in having Twitter or Facebook profiles, if you’re not going to be active, start conversations and reply to people’s questions and complaints.

Except when these people are actually trolls.

The word ’troll’ refers to the mythological creature, but it also derives from ‘trolling’, a certain method of fishing, where you lure fish into taking the bait by dragging it through the water. Similarly, the intention of Internet trolls is to lure people into taking the bait, i.e. responding to their unpleasant messages in online communities. This phenomenon is very common on Twitter, where all profiles and tweets are essentially public and accessible to everyone.

Spot the troll
A troll thrives in the anonymity of the Internet, and lives off the attention it gets from its mindless abuse, needling, or even threats of violence. The sole purpose of a troll’s existence is to bully and make you angry, and thus, they often have fake names, fake profile pictures, and very few followers (nobody likes a troll, right?). However, not all negative comments are the work of trolls – in fact, chances are that most of them are genuine complaints, which you should always meet in a friendly tone. So before acting on a negative comment, check the user’s profile to see if it’s real or fake, and to see if you can spot similar comments from the user to other people or companies – this is clear troll-behaviour.

Ignore the troll
“Don’t feed the trolls” is a popular online saying, and it always, always applies, for two reasons:

First, since trolls feed on attention you can simply ‘starve them out’ of your social media pages by not replying. They will quickly loose interest and go somewhere else.

Second, if they tweet something to you, only their followers will see it – and as mentioned, they usually only count a few. But if you reply, the tweet will be displayed on your main page, feeding the troll exponentially, as you’ve now given them a platform to reach all of your followers.

Some people are reluctant to censure comments, and removing them is generally a bad idea. But trolling is unwelcome on most moderated sites (bullying is a violation of Facebook policy and Twitter has rules against making threats) and you shouldn’t accept it either. Ignore the trolls, delete comments that cross the line, and click those Report Abuse buttons.

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