If you’ve been following the latest news from the royal family social media channels, you’ll be aware that they are making a stand on cyberbullying and social media trolls, requesting that followers be more courteous, kind and respectful when using the social channels. In specific, the social channels being talked about are the Queen’s social media account (The Royal Family), Prince Charles and Camilla’s account (Clarence House), and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s joint account (Kensington Palace) must adhere to.
The guidelines were published on the royal family’s official website to “help create a safe environment” where “our community can engage safely in debate and is free to make comments, questions and suggestions”.
With all this in mind, it’s not just personal people who can be targeted by social media trolls, it can happen to businesses too.
So what are social media trolls?
Although we might like to imagine trolls as the brightly coloured friendly creatures from our childhood (if you’re of a certain age….) unfortunately social media trolls just aren’t as nice.
They are people who like to inflict hurt, ridicule and humiliate their target.
Don’t confuse these with disgruntled customers. A business will undoubtedly encounter an unhappy customer along its journey, but a troll is more than that and has the sole intention of harming a reputation and deliberately provoking others online by being offensive.
Where can you find social media trolls?
- Social media channels
- Email groups
- Discussion forms
- Internet chat rooms
Troll or unhappy customer?
Hopefully a business will be able to spot an unhappy customer and be able to talk them to a place of settlement. When it comes to trolls, they’re are not interested in coming to a positive solution – they have a sole purpose of upsetting people!
An unhappy customer will hopefully have only had a single bad experience, or if unlucky, a couple. However a troll will exaggerate everything with words that exaggerate all that they say, using words like NEVER, ALWAYS, EVERY… instead of ‘sometimes, occasionally’.
One way of realising it’s a troll and not a customer is that their fight will always end up being personal, making it always about them. And instead of trying to discuss the matter in question, it’s turned into an attack or appealing to emotions to get others to empathise and join in.
Dealing with social media trolls
As a business it can become quite a chore to have to deal with trolls. In the royal family report, it stated that last month Kensington Palace were spending a couple of hours a week moderating and deleting posts which include racist and sexist abuse as well as threatening remarks.
For regular businesses dealing with a troll attack, it can be intimidating, time-consuming and stressful.
A good place to start for any business is to implement a social media policy that can be published on their platform – which can be referred to for any troll that comes along. It can be simple to create a policy, carefully reminding and referring anyone who makes a nuisance of themselves on the channels that there is a policy in place to keep the community safe. Following any abuse after this reminder, users will be blocked from the account.
Another way is to simply ignore them. For a troll to get the reaction that they need to fuel an argument, they need participants. If the business / person does not fight back, they have no argument to carry on.
In some cases, comments and posts can be hidden so no one else will see what they have said, however the writer will not know that no-one else cannot see it. This is different from deleting, as when a comment is deleted a user is aware that their comment has been removed.
There is always the response with humour approach – turning a complaint into something amusing. Yes, easier said than done, but if it can be pulled off, it can diffuse a situation before it escalates.
If something has escalated due to a mistake that a business has made, always try to rectify or correct it. Try to listen and respond courteously where possible, even if it is a troll, the community surrounding the business will see how the situation or post was dealt with. It will show customer service and due care. This is helpful in building customer relations and trust.
Social media trolls are unfortunately a part of online society and there will always be people who try to make others unhappy. However a business responds to the trolls will be noticed by their followers and their wider community. Think carefully about actions taken and think about the implications of being drawn in by a troll.
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