I'm often asked, 'How do I handle social media trolls?'

If the social media comments really are at that extreme - abusive hate attacks from anonymous cowards - the answer is simple. Do nothing. Any response validates their existence, gives them pleasure and invites them to continue eating you.  If their comments promote hatred directly, or rely on extreme emotional labelling (watch for the presence of 'f' and 'c' words), ignore them.

But many who ask that question are not really talking about trolls.  They're wondering whether or how to reply to hurtful social media comment. Here's a general guide.

  • If the negative social comment is based on ignorance of key facts, then enter the social fray with the correct facts - but leave your emotion out of it. Just politely state the facts, and let others spread those facts for you. Many councils do exactly that, with social and mainstream media.
  • If the facts are not an issue and the hurtful comment is simply opinion, it's usually best to ignore the comments.

Here's another possibility. Imagine reading a social media comment (about you, your product, your organisation) is like walking along the street past clusters of people talking about you. You wouldn't seriously try to persuade each small group and correct their way of thinking. But if you saw one large crowd listening to an influential speaker, you might want to get involved.

So I salute the entreprenuer Sir Michael Hill, who saw that all the negative Twitter comment was generated by one key player with a heap of followers. He entered the fray, on Twitter, like this:

Influential tweeter:  Have you seen that new Michael Hill ad? It sucks.
Michael Hill:  Hey, I hear you don't like my new ad... what's wrong with it?
Influential tweeter:  It's too soppy.
Michael Hill:  Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it.
Influential tweeter: Hey, that Michael Hill is okay!

Nice.

Have fun, but don't feed the trolls. 

Michael