What’s an internet troll?

I was asked this question this week and it occurs to me that not everyone will have had an experience of an internet troll just yet. So in anticipation of your first encounter, here is a bit of an explanation and a couple of tips.

What is an internet troll?

An internet troll is someone who is a pain in the backside online.  They post comments, threads and responses online purely with the intention of causing bad feeling and stiring up a kerfuffle. They only want attention and drama and like to make people look silly or stupid or just discredit for entertainments sake.

Common places for trolls to hang out are forums, youtube, blogs, and facebook, (not so much by my own experience on places such as Linkedin, Quora but interested to hear other peoples views).  Trolls especially hang out in places where they can post anonymously or under fake profiles and cause the most fuss.  The larger the audience, the more chances of an encounter with a troll.

“Don’t feed the troll”

What people generally mean by this is to not give in to temptation to respond or provide further material for the troll to use either against you or to keep conversations and posts going.

Like a bully the best thing is to ignore the troll.

Easier said than done especially if the troll is taking pot-shots at you online and trying to discredit you and your business.

Business Forum Trolls

They usually look like an anonymous or fake person with remarkably rude or aggressive comments. They tend to repeat themselves in their effort to get a response and provoke a reaction.

Trolls love business forums (or forums in general) due to the audiences and that posts are not easily editable by people. Some business forums only give you a 10-30 minute window to edit a post before it stays forever (and indexed possibly by search engines).

Tip 1:  Some forums have an ignore list. Just put the person/troll onto your ignore list and don’t even bother to read their comments.

Tip 2: Flag the post to the admins/moderators so they are aware of the trolling and can watch out, delete, warn or ban in line with their rules and guidelines. Business forum mods tend to rely on posts being flagged as inappropriate as they cannot read every post on a busy forum. It also means you deal with away from the public eye where you may “feed the troll”.

Tip 3: If you have built up a rapport online with other forum members or if the forum has a nice community feel about it then regular members will quickly recognise the person to be a troll. There may even be one or two people who you can private message for a bit of help and support.


Youtube, Blog, Facebook Trolls

I am sure we have all laughed at a few troll comments on youtube, facebook groups and pages, and blogs but there is a difference between being funny, amusing or a bit contentious in a view and being outright rude or aggressive as a troll.

I have put these in the same category as they are controllable by the owner. You can choose if and how you want to receive comments and moderate them.

On youtube you may decide not to allow any comments or ratings. But, if you do this then you might also be missing an opportunity to have conversations that might be useful for other visitors.

The same is true that your subscribers and friends or even just visitors are likely to stick up for you if you let them.

Tip 1: Be nice. It’s hard for someone to be horrible if you keep being nice.

Tip 2: Don’t say too much. A “thank you for your comment” might even be enough.

Tip 3:  Ask your connections if they agree or would like to comment. It can be useful sometimes for someone else to come along as an authority or 3rd party to give their view.

The same could be said for blogs.  You can decide what you allow automatically and what is set to moderation but personally I like to let as much through automatically and manage the rest by exception. We can’t go through life thinking everyone is horrible can we?

Facebook page or group trolls can be rotten but if you can then it is nice to go away and make a cup of tea and trust the community to sort out the troll.

The behaviour of some trolls is quite shocking. For example in Oct 2010 a troll was sent to prison. What’s  the world coming to eh?

If you are ever on the receiving end of an internet troll then remember the person is just trying to get a response from you. The more responses you provide, the more you are encouraging them.

So don’t feed the troll!

You may also hear the term “keyboard warrior” where someone is brave to type out whatever they want without consideration for a persons feelings, online presence, reputation etc. These can either be another type of troll or they could be someone who just feels passionately about whatever is being discussed.

Tip: A good way to find out whether the person is a troll or just an opinionated/difficult/in-it-for-the-pr kind of person is to spend a minute or two looking back at their previous posts to see if they have a track record of this before you respond.

If it is on a forum you may have the option to “find all posts from this user”. Alternatively you could put their name into a search engine and see what comes up.

I don’t mean to alarm anyone with this article as you may never come across anyone horrible online. But.. if you do then don’t take it too personally. I know it’s hard but step away from the keyboard :)  You are still trying to manage your online reputation and don’t need to respond too quickly with something that may do you no favours at all. If it is a business forum or a forum that is followed by search engines then each post adds to the content of the thread (kind of enhancing it’s importance and possibly resulting in it ranking higher than it would have done if it had been removed earlier or ignored).



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