If you’re engaging in content marketing or social media marketing, chances are you’ve encountered trolls.
If you write blog articles for your site, chances are you have the comments turned on. (You should have them turned on.)
If you create YouTube videos you likely have YouTube comments.
If you have a forum, you want people to post. That’s the whole point of the forum.
If you post updates on Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn or Twitter, you want to get comments and responses.
Engagement is Good for Your Brand
Engagement is good for many reasons, but the primary reason is that search algorithms favour content with user engagement, especially return user engagement. The more someone comments on your post, the better. Regardless of the platform (your site, YouTube, social media, a forum, etc.).
But at some point, someone is going to troll your business. They’re going to same something nasty about your business or even you. They may even post something offensive (or even just confusing) which has nothing to do with your company.
But, nevertheless, the comment is still there, on your post, implicating your brand.
How do you deal with this?
Don't Feed the Trolls?
Common internet wisdom is to ignore them, to delete their comments or turn your comments off altogether (if the comment is on your site or on a platform like YouTube).
If you ignore the comment, it sits their, implicating your brand for eternity. (Unless you delete the post entirely. Even then, someone may have archived your post before you removed it.)
If you delete the comment, you are actively reducing engagement on your posts. Moreover, if the comment was critical of your business, you can and may be accused of censoring legitimate criticism, whether or not the criticism is actually legitimate.
Finally, if you turn off comments, you are missing out on one of the best ways you can get your content noticed: user engagement and, especially, return user engagement.
And, of course, if you argue with the trolls, you just encourage them. They post more crap about you or your brand and you get stressed out.
So what do you do?
For most of the last decade I have been the admin of a YouTube channel which attracts a lot of trolls. It’s immigration-related so you can imagine the kinds of people and robots it attracts.
I have also administered many social media accounts, and Google and Facebook business pages (where there is often legitimate criticism of brands).
We decided instead of deleting troll comments, or banning comments, we’d feed the trolls, particularly on YouTube. We decided to do this because we knew Google (the owner of YouTube) would reward engagement.
It worked. The YouTube channel has nearly 12.5 million views and 73,000 subscribers. It’s about immigrating to Canada.
How did we do that?
Feed the Trolls...Questions
What we did, nearly uniformly, when encountering a troll, was to ask that troll questions about what they were actually saying.
Instead of arguing with the trolls, you ask them what they really mean.
- You patiently ask them to explain themselves.
- You ask them for sources to backup their opinions.
- You ask them if they would say what they are saying to someone in person.
The key here is to be patient and as fair as possible.
Reply with more questions, as well as facts and evidence.
This usually drives them crazy but the result is that they often post more frequently and get even more unhinged.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve harped over one point a troll has made, to the troll’s endless frustration, to the point that they give up. They actually give up.
These are people who want the last word. I’ve made hundreds of them give up, over the years. But not without first engaging vigorously with the YouTube channel, sometimes for weeks.
Do you know what that does for your video or post?
It tells Google (or, um, Bing) or the social media platform that your post is of interest to others.
And so more people see it.
And then they comment.
And then more people see it.
Which is the whole point right?
Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes a troll just never responds to my initial question.
But a third to half the time, the troll can’t help it. He or it actively engages the post, sending signals to the algorithms that the post is valuable.
It can be time consuming so you can only do it if you have the time or a social media manager.
And it will, at times, try your patience. Maybe even keep you up at night.
But it works. I promise.
I’ve done it for years.
Don't Do This for Legitimate Criticisms of Your Brand!
If you have an unhappy client, this is not how to deal with them!
An unhappy client is not a troll (usually).
An unhappy client should be made happy, as much as that’s possible. You should do everything you can to change that unhappy client or customer into a happy one, and get them to change their bad review or comment. (This is the subject of another post.)
If they can’t be appeased, you have to think seriously about whether or not it will be worth it to report or delete the review or comment. (Depends upon the platform.)
But the point is: don’t treat your actual clients or customers as if they are trolls. Ever.