Brands, social media and trolls have to co-exist in the current fast track and always online world. It is one thing to handle negativity and trolls as an individual, it is altogether a very different ball game to do the same as a brand. As a person there are very many options and ways to deal with trolls. But as a brand there are a few things that will help in handling this correctly
Negative people exist everywhere. But online they have the cover of anonymity to hide behind and that gives them an extra edge. They are very ruthless and persistent when they want to bring someone down. They get downright dirty and personal and keep picking on their target with uncanny regularity. For individual social media users, there are avenues to deal with trolls like blocking and reporting to the platform etc as they can establish clearly that the intent is to hurt or harm them. But for brands it gets dicey as there may be legitimate customers who are flustered or frustrated and take to social media to give it a vent or even look for resolution. The social media agents of the brand need to be careful to distinguish between trolls and these people.
It will serve the brand well to remember that genuinely upset clients are important and need to be treated as such. So when there is negative chatter on social media, the vetting must be objective, clear and clinical to decide whether it is a genuinely disgruntled client or a troll looking to target them.
If the negative chatter is coming from a client with an issue, your social agents need to engage and swing into action with a clear SLA. The response must be swift and immediate. The resolution should also be within deterministic time frames and to the client’s satisfaction. It will also be a good idea to even gather or glean positive feedback from a client who has had an issue sorted out via social media.
Trolls on the other hand are an altogether different beast. They are there to inflict damage of any kind and will use whatever means necessary. They will not hesitate to use un-parliamentary or downright abusive language. They will do this as publicly as possible and sometimes work in teams. There are instances where competing brands actually take leverage when a troll hits a brand. So the whole thing is a tight line to walk as a brand. So what can you do about it?
Remember that haters and hate and two different things. Haters need to be handled and the reason fixed. Haters are rarely a problem, ignoring them is your problem. Hate on the other hand is not something you can handle or fix and more often than not, as a brand, you will do well to not to engage with hate. It tends to weigh you down in public perception and that can hurt a brand considerably. So, when it comes to trolls, try and get your social media agents up to the challenge.
If someone contacts your company with the purpose of promoting hate, ignore it. Do not respond; do not engage. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from it.
If it’s a phone call, feel free to hang up. If it’s an email, delete it. For a direct message or social media post, ignore and block.
Here are some steps your company can take to deal with actual hate:
- Remain calm and do not overreact.
- Update training manuals to clearly state that agents do not need to engage with hate and that their KPIs will not be affected by refusing to engage.
- Remind agents of the difference between haters and hate – and that it’s still critical to “Hug Your Haters”.
- For social media, update your spam/profanity/pornography filters to include hate-related keywords so that those messages never enter agent queues.
- Leverage existing monitoring and recording devices to report hate calls, emails or social media posts to your Legal and/or Security departments and, if necessary, to the police.
Yes, haters are gonna hate. Keep hugging your haters, but don’t justify true hate with any response.