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How to deal with trolls in social networks

09/29/2011 -by:Silvina Moschini , CEO & Founder, Intuic | The Social Media Agency

One of the fears of those who develop marketing strategies for the Internet is the risk of encountering negative feedback from users. In general, professionals are prepared to deal with unhappy users who leave critical comments about their brands, products, or services.

Answering promptly, precisely, and, politely, with accurate information and genuine solutions to their concerns is the correct response to these kinds of inquiries. However, some users are not looking for feedback; they simply amuse themselves by sending anonymous insults and tasteless messages. Popularly known as trolls, these individuals can be a threat to online interactions because they interfere with genuine users’ participation. 

Keep in mind that the Internet is a public and open communications platform; this is one of the main reasons social media are so powerful. If you have a blog open to comments or a profile on a social network, you will probably be exposed to trolls. This is actually a small price to pay for a communication platform as effective as the social web. To deal adequately with trolls, it would be ideal to establish public use policies for Internet users across the entire online universe. Until that happens, however, you can specify for your own site which behaviors, methods, and subjects are acceptable and which can be rejected by the administrator. These might include racist messages, insults, covert advertisements, or merely discussion of irrelevant topics.

You also want to consider how to recognize trolls. You cannot just define as a troll anyone who leaves a critical comment, no matter how malicious. In most cases, it is possible to soothe a dissatisfied user with a timely, courteous response that offers a reasonable explanation or effective solution. A correct and educated answer to the comment, reminding the user of the accepted rules for conversation on you platform and inviting continued dialogue through another channel should be sufficient to test the user’s intentions. If aggressive comments continue, then the user is a troll, and you can rely on your site’s screening policies to eliminate further offensive comments.

Another option for limiting publication of anonymous messages is to establish a registration system. Many blogs and forums ask users to log on using their Facebook accounts before leaving messages. Although this may not eliminate all the trolls, most users with nothing useful to say will not take the time to create false accounts just to make trouble.

It is important to remember that the Internet is an authentic community. As in all social interaction platforms, there are rules and good practices, and there are people who do not always respect these codes. Being prepared to face these eventualities without losing your temper is an essential requirement for success in the social network.