How aggravating is it when someone on the Internet is wrong? It can be hard to walk away from your keyboard when you disagree with someone online, especially if your brand is under attack. But, sometimes, it's not about right or wrong. Sometimes, it's about not feeding the trolls.
Contrary to popular belief, a troll isn't someone who has something negative to say. A troll is someone who is saying negative things just for the attention. Their goal is to tick you off, even if it means leaving comments that are untrue, contradictory, or against their personal feelings on the topic. Trolls don't care about "winning" an argument. They win when they get a rise out of you.
So what's a savvy online business person to do? Not answering comments can make it seem like you don't care or are ignoring your customers, but answering a troll plays right into their hand.
Before I talk about what to do, here are five types of comments you should avoid leaving online:
- Passionate, Emotional Responses
As noted in my blog post about responding to Yelp comments, you shouldn't hit the "publish" button when you're mad. It's human nature to say things we regret when we're angry, and once something is out there on the Internet, you can't take it back.
It should go without saying that lying is bad, but when you're dealing with a troll, it can be tempting to fib a little in order to "prove" them wrong. It's not okay to lie in any way at any time, and this includes telling half-truths, making up stats, and bending the truth, even just a little.
- Statements that aren't Fact Checked
Trolls live to prove you wrong. If you're going to respond, you absolutely need to make sure that what you're saying is valid and up-to-date. Otherwise, anything further you say will be dismissed. Always fact check before publishing a comment.
- Name-Calling or Insults
It can be really satisfying to call a troll what he/she is, but when you stoop to that level, you don't do yourself any favors. Not everyone who reads the conversation will realize that the other person is just trolling you, and they might think that's how you interact with all of your customers.
- Lengthy "Prove You Wrong" Comments
Trolls love when you leave lengthy comments, because it gives them the attention they want. It also gives them more ammunition, since they can respond to your comment, poking holes in every point you made. You aren't going to change a troll's mind.
So what should you say to a troll? You have two good options:
- Say nothing and delete the comment
- Respond in a short, friendly manner
If the comment is on your site or Facebook page, you aren't bound by some kind of law to allow others to see it. You can delete it. However, before you do, think long and hard about whether the comment is truly from a troll or if it is simply from someone who had a negative experience. Negative commenters (yes, even when they are rude) aren't always trolls. Those are two different things.
If you decide to respond to the comment on your site or it is public somewhere else where you don't have the ability to delete, the very best thing you can do is to leave a short, professional comment. Note that you respect their opinion, but you have other customers who disagree. Invite them to discuss the matter with a phone call (and follow up if they say yes to that - which is super rare for trolls, but might happen).
Always remember, the comments you leave in response to trolls are not for the troll. They're for other customers who see the conversation. A thoughtful, friendly response to a mean-spirited troll can actually make you look good!
About the Author: Allison Boyer is a content marketer who blogs regularly about blogging, email, social media, and more at AllisonBoyer.com.