The Business Owner’s Guide to Internet Trolls

If you run a small business and maintain an active online presence, odds are you’ve had a run in or two with an internet troll posting hateful and unfounded comments on your website or social media channels. If left alone or handled incorrectly, this type of libelous vitriol could damage your reputation and end up causing your digital content to have the opposite effect than was intended.

There is a lot of contradictory advice on the internet as to how best to handle these types of interactions which can lead to further confusion and second guessing. This inconsistent information most likely stems from an over-simplification of the problem by categorizing every negative poster under the umbrella term “troll”.

The reality is there are different types of internet trolls and different ways to deal with each, all of which we will go through here so you can know exactly how to handle reputation-damaging internet hate.

The Trash Talker

Example of comments:

“DONT EVER EVER COME HERE!!! THEY ARE ALL PART OF THE ILLUMINATI AND THEY SMELL LIKE GARBAGE!!1!”

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Description:

This is the classic bombastic bully troll that you see all-too-often across the internet. Whether it’s a scorned former employee, bored thirteen-year-old, or run-of-the-mill crazy person, you’re bound to run into one of these caps-lock crusaders eventually.

They tend to write malicious reviews, even if they’ve never been a customer, all for the purpose of defaming you and hopefully getting a rise out of you.

How to Handle:

As soon as you get angry and start to type a response, these types of trolls win. Their whole goal is to get under your skin and they will say whatever inflammatory thing they can think of to do so.

Understanding that, there are two ways to handle this. The first is simply to not engage. As difficult as this may be since they are saying things that are untrue and potentially damaging, if they see you ignore them and continue to engage with other customers it will drive them CRAZY. They are constantly refreshing their browser to see if you responded so giving them the cold shoulder is the perfect form of revenge.

The other course of action is to establish a firm comment policy detailing what types of comments are allowed on your content. This policy should be readily available on your site so people can easily find it. Once you have this policy in place, it is well within your jurisdiction to simply remove the malicious comments every time they pop up.

If these trolls are attacking exclusively on social media, most sites have reporting tools in place which you can use to flag troll’s comments and potentially block them in the future. These tools work to varying degrees but they tend to work especially well on troll accounts that have been flagged in several locations.

Dr. Know-It-All

Example of comments:

“Actually, I studied at Harvard, MIT, and Julliard and based on my quantitative research on the molecular biology of your product, I conclude that it is not only ineffective but irresponsible to sell.”

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Description:

Trolls, in general, thrive on anonymity, but this type of troll in particular, leverage this anonymity to give themselves all kinds of unearned accolades which they think bolsters their credibility.

These types of trolls are typically extremely transparent since it’s a lot more difficult for an uneducated person to sound highly educated than the other way around. Even still, these trolls can be dangerous because they can spread false facts that mislead other potential customers into believing your product or service is harmful.

How to Handle:

Luckily for you, these trolls are easy to beat since you simply need to expose them for the frauds they are by doing your research.

Research their claims and provide links proving why what they’re saying is false. They will then be put on the defensive but, since what they’re saying has no basis in fact, they’ll have no way to counter besides reiterating their initial point.

All you need to do is stick to the facts and talk with them on a strictly intellectual basis and eventually their true colors will shine through.

The Chronic Complainer

Example of comments:

“I really wish your product was like this other product I had. But it wasn’t and I didn’t like that. 1 ½ stars. Sigh.”

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Description:

This often-over-looked species of troll exists in a bit of a gray area and can sometimes be difficult to differentiate from legitimate customers. The main difference between this type of troll and an unsatisfied customer is that they feel justified and righteous when they leave a bad review so they do it often and with gusto.

Whether it’s your product/service or a piece of pizza from the 7/11 on the corner, they can’t wait to fire up the lap top and let the world know how displeased they were with the experience. It’s the classic school-yard psychology of putting others down to make yourself look better.

How to Handle:

Since these trolls can be difficult to identify immediately, your best course of action is to treat them like you would any other customer. Address their complaints directly, apologize for their bad experience and ask how you can improve in the future.

The fact may be that you can’t win with this type of troll so you should try your best to kill them with kindness. Even if it doesn’t prevent them from complaining in the future, at least it will demonstrate to others who see these complaints that you care and are willing to do anything in your power to give your customers the best experience possible.


Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate the tricky waters of dealing with various harmful internet personalities. The internet and social media can be a powerful tool but trolls and negative commenters are all part of the package so knowing how to deal with them properly, and even spinning them to your advantage, is a valuable skill to have.

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