Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

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!


Have fun, but don't feed the trolls. 



Interested in a workshop on media skills for your team?



First, let’s be clear on one point: I want to persuade you not to hire a spin doctor—but that doesn’t mean you should do nothing if you have a media disaster looming.

By all means get help, and sometimes that does take the expertise of a media consultant. But choose your consultant carefully. Telling the whole truth, whether making an admission or arguing your case, can be a disaster or a triumph, depending on how you do it.

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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