7 Ways to Deal with Internet Trolls: The Underbelly of Reputation Management
Pooja, a social media manager with a hospitality brand, had to excuse herself from a friend’s party at 11 PM. Her company’s social channel had erupted with 60 negative tweets from a disgruntled guest who was not ready to stop until the company was taking heed of his demands. The guest was now in the process of instigating and tagging others to fan the spark of dissatisfaction into a forest fire. It was classic online reputation management (ORM) nightmare situation. The main job was to stop this from escalating into a PR nightmare. Now, most of us have faced a similar situation as social media managers. So, taking a stance and dealing with such experiences is a must.
It is common knowledge that positivity hardly comes actively on social media. People have to be prodded and probed to extrapolate a positive. Negative, on the other hand, comes with the explosion potential of a ticking time bomb. Some part of it is potent with malice because the attackers are hiding behind an online identity and have a false belief that they can’t and won’t be tracked.
While every situation will have to be dealt with differently, here are some best practices to follow:
Create a solid policy and fall back on it often
As a brand, you have the right to maintain the decorum of your social handles. Don’t give control to the bullying few. Create a social media policy document and share it with all admins of the page. Admins should have the right to remove/hide/delete harassing, anonymous or spam comments. Put up the policies on your own website and use the link as a reference point to anyone crossing the line. Don’t delete posts easily as it only irks the person and may also encourage others to write things they don’t mean. They are likely to come back with worse in the future.
Have a standard offline approach for customer care
Trolls thrive on the attention they receive over a sustained period of time. Cut off the potential for this by redirecting them to an email id that can have a quick turnaround time (TAT). Let them know that you have heard them and registered their grievance. But keep redirecting them to email or even direct messaging. If you are dealing with an irate customer who won’t wait for an email response, have an escalation process and have a customer care executive call them on a priority basis. Being heard and responded to will destroy the troll’s steam to hurl abuses online or rally others to join them. If you can’t resolve the issue immediately, request a 24 – 48-hour timeline and be sure to keep the deadline. Once you have this, share your response online so that others following the update know that you have responded.
Create a specific customer care handle
If your brand handle is getting clouded with trolls, create a redirect mechanism with a separate customer care handle which is purely for handling queries. If someone approaches on your brand handle, redirect them to the customer care handle to keep the conversation going without hampering the brand image.
Pick your battles
There are times when you are right and times when you will have to apologize and move on for a genuine problem at your end. If you know that you are right then be willing to take on the troll on your own terms. People think that they can get discounts or refunds if they escalate the problem to the CEO of the company, leaving the minions scurrying. Don’t be perturbed and follow the standard response procedure if you are right. Respond with facts and proof documents if need be.
There are times when one of your staff/processes could have gone wrong. This is especially true for the service industry. If there is clear proof in the pudding, it is best to take the higher road, apologize, and swallow the bitter medicine.
At other times, you may hear a simple statement complaint like the food tasting bad or the service not being up to the mark. Reply with a sense of humour and the tension may get diffused.
Block that noise
It is not an easy thing to do but one has to do it when running out of options. Some trolls can go on tangent and decide they won’t stop until their ransom demands are met. So, it is important to take a stand and eventually block them from engaging in a conversation on your page. This is done in an extreme case when you label the person as a ‘detractor’. Keep maintaining and updating this list so that you can build a case history if required.
Identify the difference between a troll and an irate customer. A customer may be making noise to set a wrong right. A troll is making noise to get attention and often do scathing personal attacks. Be stern with trolls and patient with customers.
Use analytics to bring the internal culprits to court
Errant member-facing staff is also a problem that the ORM team has to deal with. Whether it is someone in the sales team who has
gone astray or someone in the customer service team who has in a moment of weakness lost patience, it is important to track and maintain records. The weekly/ monthly report for the particular department is eventually likely to catch fire and attention and bring more discipline in dealing with customers.
Amplify your positives to drown the noise
What you see is what you believe. If you see 100 positive reviews to one negative, it is easier to believe that the overall experience with the brand is positive. Encourage, and if need be, incentivize positive behaviour by requesting customers to share their positive experience without fail. The more you amplify the positive noise, the less likely you are to be seen in a negative light.
Always try to catch a nasty troll before they go haywire. Unmask them, call on facts, call upon your community of brand advocates and come in all guns blazing. Once you show that you won’t back off, you would have levelled the battleground. That’s a great beginning.
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