Yesterday, one of my clients asked me about internet trolls and how to handle them. Although it’s an unlikely event, of course occasionally it does happen. I, for example, have previously been trolled and as a result wrote the blog below. I wanted to help others handle the situation should they be so unfortunate as to encounter trolls and thought you may want to know more too…
When you start your entrepreneurial journey, you will inevitably have visions of what your success will look and feel like. Perhaps you picture yourself on a boat, drinking champagne? Or maybe you see yourself winning a Nobel Prize for making major change in the world? Whatever the dream and vision, I’m sure it doesn’t include being attacked online and being hounded by strangers.
Unfortunately, in the world we live in, this is a possibility. Social Media is a fantastic tool but there can sometimes be opportunities for backlash; although rare. This isn’t exclusive to Social Media but it can be quicker to see the results when negativity arises. I wanted to write this piece to warn you, but also support you and give you tips on how to handle your success haters; also known as internet trolls. You see, you don’t have to be Richard Branson to be considered worthy of trolling. In fact, at just 24, I had already had a troll crew follow me from blog to blog, success to success, shouting negative, untrue abuse.
So why do we attract trolls in the first place?
That’s easy – for sticking our heads above the parapet! The unfortunate truth is that some people seem to feel others don’t have the ‘right’ to be successful and different while they are busy conforming. I read a quote that sums this up perfectly, ‘Remember: people only rain on your parade because they are jealous of your sun and tired of their shade.’
Many trolls will justify their behavior by convincing themselves (and attempting to inform others) that you are doing something wrong, immoral, perhaps even unlawful, and that they aren’t attacking you but that they are crusading for justice. (A point to make here, if you are up to no good, or these comments are coming from dissatisfied customers, then they are not trolls; they have a right to complain and express issues with bad service. These complaints you should handle completely differently.) However, if these people are true trolls then I can assure you their allegations won’t be truthful. If they were, they could easily call the police or other authorities (like Trading Standards) and report you. The fact that they are chasing you around and making false accusations usually means they have no facts or evidence against you and therefore their keyboard is their only weapon.
The Independent reported, ‘In a survey conducted by the group of psychologists, people who partake in so-called trolling online showed signs of sadism, psychopathy, and were Machiavellian in their manipulation of others and their disregard for morality.’
So you now have your trolls, how do you handle them?
I tried various tactics but my top five and most effective were:
1) Ignore them. It’s hard, and sometimes very upsetting, but the key rule is to not engage with these people. No matter what you say or do they won’t listen so you’re not changing anything. The more you ignore them, the sadder they look! Keyboard bashing someone isn’t seen as a valuable pastime and most other people and businesses will quickly think less of the troll, not less of you for what they are typing. It will have an emotional effect on you, no one is made of stone. However, talk to friends and silently plotting revenge (never to be acted on) might make you feel a little bit better. Remember though, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ so try not to let them wear you down!
2) The even sadder truth, it’s likely you’ll actually know at least of one of these trolls. They may not be a friend or colleague but you are likely to have encountered them in some way. That’s why their comments may appear so personal, because they are. So I suggest you clear out your contacts list (on all your social networking sites, etc.) of anyone you suspect may be behind the attacks or anyone you don’t think is actually of benefit to keep in your lists.
3) Next step, engage your clients, customers and supporters! If you have got to the stage where you have trolls, you’ll also have attracted supporters. Instead of personally responding to comments, the best thing to do is make it easy for your supporters to do just that – support you. Note, do not ask them to reply or provoke the trolls either but encourage them to support or comment on the things you have been doing that they like. This will dilute the spam comments, make you feel a tad better and gives you an opportunity to communicate and engage with your supporters.
4) It’s really important that if the trolling becomes threatening that you seek help. You should ignore stupid comments but those that threaten you, your family, work, etc. need handling properly. The police and other authorities take trolling very seriously. They have the tools and resources to discover the true identities of these people and bring them to justice on your behalf. Take the case of Caroline Criado-Perez. She reported violent and threatening tweets to the police and two of the offenders were arrested and later sent to jail for their malicious attacks.
5) Finally, and most importantly, keep up the good work! Trolling is just a form of jealousy and ‘jealousy is a good indication that you are doing things the right way. People never get jealous of losers’. The more good work you do, and success you have, the more likely you are to attract hatred and jealousy. Take it as a positive; you must be on the right track!
Don’t fear Social Media or trolls, know that positivity prevails and you’re doing a great job that others want to praise publicly.
Thanks for reading,
This post was originally published by me on Yahoo! Small Business Blog here.