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How to Deal With Internet Trolls (And Make Your Business Look Like the Hero)

June 21, 2019

We recently had words with an internet troll. 


Before we get there, let's cover some backstory: A restaurant client hired us to do some event promotion. They'd decided to hold an open-to-the-community eating competition that put their product right in the spotlight. While they could have charged entry fees to go back into their business, they made the classy move to donate the entry fees and all other proceeds from the event to charity. 


By the end of the day, this small business would likely miss out on $500 of revenue in two hours, all in the name of charity. Nice, right?


Not everyone thinks so.


Someone used the landing page we built for the event to tell us how they felt about it. Basically, they called our client classless for using an eating contest to donate to charity. 


The client was pretty upset, and rightfully so. They'd picked a charity they had an emotional tie to, they were holding an event to improve their status in the community, and they really wanted to put on a nice, exciting day for the community. 


Mood busted. 


The immediate desire was to call out the troll and tell the individual how wrong they were, but we took the reins. 


Instead of arguing, here's how we responded on behalf of the client:

  1. We explained that the original concept for the contest had no charity element, but we eventually realized it would be a fun, easy way to give back to the community.  

  2. We explained the organization's purpose and mission. 

  3. We sent along resources to learn more (the organization's homepage and a YouTube video providing supplementary information). 

There was no name calling. There was no arguing. We promoted a civil dialogue. 


And guess what? The troll didn't come back. 


Dealing With Internet Trolls

We had an advantage with our troll: They contacted us through a private messaging service. 


Not every business is that lucky. Many times, trolls will come forward through Facebook comments, Google reviews, or Tweets. 


There's no telling what a troll will do or when they'll strike. But know this: If your company is on social media and has any sort of presence, someone somewhere will eventually try to rattle you. They'll mock your post, question your integrity, or leave you an ugly review


In dealing with trolls, here's what you should keep in mind:


1. Don't stoop to their level. Avoid name-calling or arguing. It's not worth your time, and the public will look down on you when they read the conversation. Plus, you might soon find yourself in a distracting back-and-forth argument that could ruin your reputation if it goes wrong. 


Another way of looking at it: Pretend you're the Fonz from Happy Days. Don't let things bother you, and handle every troll encounter like you could hit the jukebox to get the party started. 


2. If you have evidence contrary to what they're saying, feel free to talk about it. We've seen plenty of instances where someone makes an accusation against a business, only for the business to respond with a play-by-play of what actually happened, according the their surveillance tapes. 


Pointing to the tapes themselves will be enough to show the trolls and any readers you were in the right, but you should hesitate before posting any videos as proof. Using someone's image without permission could get you in trouble in certain instances. 


You could also present other facts that flip the conversation on its head. For example, check out this exchange between a reviewer and a restaurant owner:



3. Get the authorities involved if you need to. At some point, trolling crosses the line from teasing to harassment, and harassment to defamation. .


If someone's consistently trolling your team or business and they don't stop at your request, you may have an opportunity to bring in police or lawyers, especially if you can prove their actions have impacted your sales. 


Still need assistance handling trolls? Contact Poetica Marketing for a coaching session.

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P.S. Marketing Solutions LLC dba Poetica Marketing  |  |  412-522-0647 | 519 Louann St, Pittsburgh, PA 15223