Trolls. Once upon a time, you’d have conjured up images of a mythical monster skulking under a bridge.
Alas, today they take on a different form: lonely, sad people who hide behind their computer screens, and spend their time looking for trouble on the Internet. For no apparent reason.
Trolls pride themselves on attacking and harassing people, brands and businesses online. Sometimes it can even be difficult to separate the trolls from just a really, really mad consumer.
This guide will help you spot a troll, and (even better) tell you what kind of behaviour to avoid so that you don’t accidentally become one yourself.
What is a social media troll?
Social media trolls are a subset of the more generic internet trolls, who pride themselves on saying inflammatory, offensive or nasty things on channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
They like to rant, make personal attacks, indulge in hate speech and spew vitriol that’s completely untrue, unfounded or out of whack regarding the situation at hand. They shouldn’t be confused with a rightfully angry consumer.
Why are they so dangerous?
Apart from hurting the feelings of those on the receiving end of their abuse, trolls are masters at spreading fake news. This includes harassing brands for non-existent sloppy service, mistakes, or product issues. It also includes pestering them online just because they don’t like them.
This is dangerous for brands because it shapes the perceptions of normal consumers who are looking for authentic and honest accounts of a brand, service or product.
How do you spot ‘em?
There are many types of trolls out there in the wild, and we’ve taken the time to equip you with the details you need to spot them right away. Trolls generally display at least one of the following characteristics:
- They’re incoherent: The most obvious sign of a troll is their propensity to write rambling, meaningless criticisms or attacks that don’t make sense nor provide any value. Their attacks are seldom about anything, other than to show off how many swear words they know. This is because their objective isn’t to provide feedback or resolve an issue, it’s to insult and offend.
- They have terrible spelling and grammar: Trolls are renowned for their terrible command of (any) language.
- They are unnecessarily personal and mean: Trolls like to humiliate, degrade and offend, and are often racist, sexist or homophobic. You can easily identify a troll if the associated person or profile is making cruel, personal attacks on either the community manager, customer service representative, or other commenters who call out their behaviour.
- They think they’re funny: Trolls lap up attention at the expense of their target. And they often do this by making cruel “jokes.”
- They’re aggressive: Trolls often bully those that “wrong” or argue with them. They do this by threatening to hack them, finding and releasing their personal details, or hurting them physically. Generally, these threats are empty but if you’re feeling scared it’s totally okay to report the abusive profile or account.
- They’re obsessive: They hang around waiting for a brand or business to trip up, combing through discussions in search of small spelling mistakes. Which is funny, considering they’re usually so terrible at spelling themselves. They’re also known to jump on the bandwagon when somebody else makes a legitimate query or complaint, often with useless comments like “good luck getting this resolved” or “this brand sucks!”
- They want the last laugh: Trolls will keep going. Indefinitely. There’s a reason why the saying “don’t feed the trolls” exists, because arguing with them is futile.
How do I deal with them?
Sometimes all you can do is ignore them. Or block them. Under no circumstances should you engage. Trolls aren’t there to be reasoned with, because they aren’t looking for a meaningful conversation. They’re looking to cause trouble.
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