Traditionally, trolls are creatures that lurk beneath bridges and hurt you – but nowadays they're faceless beings behind keyboards. So how do you deal with trolls and with negativity and unkind comments posted underneath your social media content?
It can be very distressing and incredibly hurtful. No matter how many times you hear 'let the haters hate, don't let it get to you' it's going to get to you, because at the end of the day we're all human beings and there's something particularly nasty about having unkind things said to you by people you don't know and you've never met in the real world. It can also be rather sinister if you're a person with a public persona, as people feel that you 'owe' them something. There is, however, a very easy way of dealing with trolls AND retaining your good reputation.
Shut them down – If somebody has posted something negative or unkind, my personal approach is to publicly reply to that, but with something very polite: 'thank you for taking the time to comment'. This is suitably bland, does not respond to what they said and cannot start a public slanging match. It also serves as a very gentle reminder that you are a real person. At this point 95% of trolls back off. Remember you're not replying for the trolls but for the rest of the audience, they will see you grace and professionalism which will form part of your larger brand
Block and remove – what if this doesn't work and the trolls come back, and more aggressively? This is where the ever useful 'block' button comes into its own; delete the post so you don't have to see it, block that person because obviously they're not following you for any positive reason and so they don't need to be part of your tribe. I have a lot of people worry that taking such action will 'damage' their following because it's very easy to get caught up in the whole vanity metric of how many followers you have and how many 'likes' you get. Although these things are important, because that's how you build your engagement, it does not mean that you have to accept every single person. If being polite and shutting them down is not appropriate or you're not comfortable with, simply remove the comment that they've placed on your social media, you're also protecting your other followers from seeing negative content. Remove that person from your following list, block them, and you then become essentially invisible to them. Remind yourself that you're doing a great job and not everyone will appreciate that, but that's not your concern! Obviously, anything racial, sexist or violent should be reported to both the platform and the police.
Acknowledge your followers, ignore the trolls – If the troll has put something that has been up there for a little while, and you just haven't spotted it yet, it's likely that other people will have jumped onto this and will be defending you and shouting down the troll. This is very nice in one way, but it also detracts from what you're doing, from what your brand is, from what your message is and from what that piece of content was actually about. It's important, however to acknowledge this support as people like to feel they have 'helped' you. Say 'thank you', reassure them the person has been blocked and the comment deleted and move on.
The danger zone is that, being human, we can be tempted to fire back and before you know it the matter has become a slanging match. Take a deep breath. Remember it is ok to feel hurt, upset and even angry, but do not descend to their level. As Michelle Obama says,“When they go low, we go high”.
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