Trollers Gonna Troll... How to Deal With "The Haters" and Knowing When to Respond.

Blog Post by Sarah Malcolm, Chief Digital Strategist at The News Funnel

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Nothing worse than opening email on a Monday morning to find a string of notifications blasting your latest post or chiding your newest member of the team. Then again, maybe your Twitter feed on Friday afternoon might be full of the same. #GiveMeABreak

Social media trolls can ruin your day, your week, and even your reputation. Commercial real estate professionals should be aware of the ugly lurking in the Internet shadows and take steps to keep trolls from spreading their poison onto their brand.

While there are times for you to humbly respond to legitimate complaints (no matter how inappropriately they may be posted), most of the time, social media rants masked as “complaints” are nothing more than trollers tryna’ troll. The trick is to know who is for real and how to handle both the haters and the real-dealers.

What are social media trolls?

Think swamp dwellers. Night crawlers. Lice. They are a subhuman extension of the Internet who feeds off the negative emotions they propagate on your social media. Sometimes crafty with words in meager attempts to boost their credibility, trolls often pose as former clients, business associates, or other “in-the-know” authorities. They are bullies with the sole intention of provoking others to join their online fray—anger fueled by WiFi.

Where do they surface?

Wherever your brand appears online, trolls are likely to creep into your space to tarnish your brand. Successful agents, brands, and companies-at-large are most often targeted by trolls who largely scour Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social media platforms to burn bridges between you and your clients.

What can you do about them?

1. Be a goat (or hire some).

Guard your social media frequently and with vigor. Many commercial real estate professionals would rather spend their time servicing clients, moving properties, or acquiring new business, but your social media presence cannot be ignored. Whether it’s you or a third-party, listening in on your social media platforms is essential to minimizing trolls’ access and potential damage to your brand. Forbes contributor Blake Morgan suggests the following:

“Have keywords set up on hot button issues that someone might have flagged prior. That said, also pay attention to what your employees are posting and saying on the internal communities you have. Or if someone flags something, pay attention to it. All of this may seem obvious but it’s easy to get caught up doing other things. Understanding what’s going on with your brand is important.”  

2. Evaluate the trespass.

You or your team of social media “goats” that guard the bridge should develop a good “feel” for what constitutes trolling and what needs further investigation (and warrants a response).  If the diatribe against you or your company points to an error or misstep on your part, then handle it immediately. Even when the person (or company in some cases) has chosen a rotten way to express his discontent, you are wise to address it immediately (albeit in a more professional manner), rather than allow the sore to infect a broader customer pool.

3. Decipher between impish and important.

Deciphering between a troll and a human with a legitimate concern or complaint about your company is not always cut and dry. There are a few litmus tests to help you identify the monster behind the message. Trolls look a lot like this:

  • They intentionally post inflammatory content. When you read a message that boils your blood, you are likely dealing with a troll.

  • They often use hyperbole. They exaggerate on top of their exaggeration. Beware of words like always, never, and every.

  • They go for the throat. A delayed return call does not elicit personal name calling and violent threats in stable people. Do not engage with these types of trolls! Block them from and report them to your social network platforms immediately.

  • They use poor smelling and grampar. Whether due to the mad typing in their rushed ranting or simply a lack of language training, trolls don’t spell well. They misuse homophones, scrEW up CapITALs, and, in general, write like a second grader with a potty mouth.

4. Report or respond.

Some suggest trying to counter trolls’ junk with humor, but this strategy can easily backfire. The best advice is to not reward trolls’ behavior by engaging them. Social networks each have their own processes for reporting trolls (see below), and all trolls deserve to have their names written in black, that is blacklisted from the platforms through which they prey. Already mentioned, though worth repeating, is your ability to block them from your platforms when possible.

5. Stay true to you.

Whichever strategy you employ to handle social media trolls, be true to your brand. Be careful not to let them get to you, and certainly, never respond in kind. The last thing you want is for your brand to be associated with the kind of language and hostility with which trolls traffic. Finally, deny the natural impulse to hit that little button just off the right-hand pinky side. Deleting a troll’s post will only incite more of the troll’s impish behavior. As the Guardian rightly years ago,

“The high road is the only road in social media, whether you’re handling customers with a legitimate gripe, or trolls with no intention of a happy outcome. Being responsive, responsible, and respectful online (and in private) has a great side benefit: it builds a community of social media followers who will respect and stand by you.”

Commercial real estate professionals will be wise to listen in and take action on their social media platforms. Identifying trolls and aptly dealing with their troll behavior will help you stay focused on business and aid the online community in shutting down the business of trolling.