Social media platforms have grown to become a must-have in advertising and promotional activities. Besides, they are also an avenue to engage with your customers on a one-on-one basis.
As an unwritten law, it is expected that the audience is ethical and polite when engaging with the brand or other users on social media. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as there are individuals who find pleasure in cultivating controversy, starting conflicts, and engaging in personal attacks to provoke other users.
Meet social media trolls.
Trolls have been in existence even before the internet, holding on to the same tactics and strategies to fulfill their aim of damaging a brand’s or individual’s reputation with negative comments that intend to sway the audience’s view on a topic.
But with the rise of the Internet, trolls and trolling activities have skyrocketed, hence every brand on social media should be on the lookout. As a brand, you do not want to be censured by trolls, and here’s why.
How Social Media Trolls Affect Your Brand Image
Now more than ever, social media trolls have become more harmful not only to a brand’s image and its customer relations. Trolls exist with the intention of:
1. Tarnishing Your Reputation
A troll’s primary aim is to go against the brand’s vision, principles, and relationships with real customers. They make you look bad, either by intimidating customers, spreading fake news, exaggerating errors in communication or advertisement, or advocating for a competitor.
2. Twisting Marketing Campaigns
Social media trolls will go out of their way to twist your marketing campaigns and harm your message. This happened to Popular Science who had to turn off their blog comments when trolls overwhelmed their ability to foster lively and intellectual debate. Uncivil comments from trolls made their story lose meaning, angering, and polarizing readers.
How to Deal With Social Media Trolls
While it might be very tempting to give as good as you get to the trolls damaging your brand, this will do more harm than good. Instead, you need to keep this professional: assess the situation and determine the best steps to take next. Let’s take a look at five ways in which you can deal with social media trolls in a professional manner.
1. Use Social Proof to Tackle Harmful Reviews
Let’s face it, not every person will like your company. Some will even hate your brand just for the sake of it. To feed their ego, they start a conversation that will make your brand look inferior in the eyes of your customers and in comparison to competitors, to create disconnect and discomfort, especially with customers looking for help.
If you are under attack by trolls, the best armor you can use is your customers. Convince your target audience that your brand is reliable, trustworthy, valuable - whatever you want your USP to be - by highlighting reviews from loyal customers. Be proactive in this area by using a social media management tool to monitor online comments and proactively engage with the positive ones.
If you want to monitor overall brand perception in the long term, consider using a brand tracking tool.
2. Create a Unified Community
Social media trolls can take things too far sometimes: threats, hate speech, spam, and competitor promotion. If these things are happening on your social media accounts, you are in grave danger of losing the relationships you have worked hard to build.
To keep the flow of negative information under control, you need to create a unified community, including only people who like your brand - or at least those who don’t have a motive to harm it.
Burger King Norway did this by carrying out a purge of their followers’ list.
They realized that many of its 38,000 Facebook followers on Facebook were fickle, not engaging positively with the brand. To filter out those who might be harmful to their brand later down the line they offered people the choice of joining their new community or a free burger.
Surprisingly, 30,000 followers chose the burger. It may have led to a massive drop in their follower count, but the 8,000 strong followers who remained would engage with the brand as needed to help create a strong image.
Gone are the days where brands should chase after a large fan or follower count. A big audience does not translate to high engagement - but may be an avenue for chaos. Fan purge is a way to deal with abuse against your brand and customers, leaving just people who will contribute to a unified community.
3. Use a Reward System
Another method of determining whether you have real followers or social media trolls is by using a reward system.
The reward method uses past audience engagement to give priority to a commenter’s visibility. Giving more votes to engaged participants and downvotes to trolls will build strong brand advocates.
Reddit is an outstanding example of a social media platform that uses the reward system to attract loyal readers and not just average passerby. Reddit Coins is a virtual rewards system that allows users to award somebody for their exceptional contribution to the site. The coins are built up into awards, such as free Reddit Premium membership, and encourages users to continue building a positive platform.
Since most trolls are people who have no interest in engaging with the brand, they will get discouraged when they see they have to gain some mileage before their comments can be viewed with other members.
4. Introduce Paid Membership or Gated Content
Even after purging fans and separating fact from fiction, some social media trolls will still find a way to cause havoc in your group. What should you do?
Leverage gated communities.
Social media platforms like Facebook provide you the option to start a paid membership group. Again, as trolls are more interested in attention and instant reactions and not actually engaging with your brand, they won’t pay a fee to enter your community.
If you don’t want your audience to pay to be part of the community, then gate your content so trolls have to fill out a form to register as members, thus forfeiting their anonymity.
Most news sites, like the BBC, now require that anyone wishing to comment on a post must sign up to their site. Trolls prefer to remain anonymous, but when the secrecy of their identity is under threat, they will eventually leave.
5. Archive a Chat or Group When Absent
To avoid unnecessary escalation of any biased or hateful messages on Facebook, especially when you are not around to moderate the community, you can archive a group.
Archiving a group does not prevent it from being visible, but it does prevent anyone from posting anything hateful when moderators are not available. Negative comments in online communities can spread like wildfire, and as a community manager, you do not want to be caught off guard.
For any brand working on environmental issues, feminism, human rights, theology, and academics, where hostility and a war of words against your workforce can show up unexpectedly, turning off commenting when out of the office is another way to safeguard your social community and brand.
Sadly, social media trolls are as part of today’s world as social media itself is. You need to take the professional high road to protect your brand from PR nightmares. As this article has shown, it can be quite easy to get your own back on social media trolls while being professional. Take on board some of these actions today to proactively protect your brand image.
Hanson Cheng is the founder of Freedom to Ascend. He empowers online entrepreneurs and business owners to 10x their business and become financially independent. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.