29th August 2013

Ten troll types and how to tame them

Emily Turner
Content Strategist

The internet is gaining a reputation as a portal for abusive anonymous messages. After pressure from a high profile campaign about trolls, Twitter has announced this week it is launching a reporting button for people sent abusive tweets. Trolls are the reason most people do not look at the bottom half of the internet - the comments section is often a fire pit of seething opinions and bile. But what if your job involves reading and dealing with online comments?

One key skill you need when dealing with online criticism is to be able to read negative posts without a white heat of panic rising up from your toes. You also need to be able to understand the motivation behind the negativity and have processes in place to respond swiftly.

Troll types

Trolls often fit a mould, do you recognise any of these?

The flamer: Has no interest in the topics discussed but just wants to cause trouble for their own amusement to lift daily grind boredom.

The pedant: This troll will refuse to listen if “there” and “their” is misused or there is a typo - mistakes automatically invalidate arguments.

The serial leaver: If they can’t get their own way, they threaten to leave forever because of the vile bullying and then return a few days later. Repeat.

The boomerang: Different name but posts sound familiar? This troll sets up new accounts to keep posting when blocked.

The swearer: If anyone dares to disagree with them, this troll will reply IN CAPS AND WITH LOTS OF SWEARING *@!&. They will also tell you how ugly you and your mum are.

The harasser: Cross this troll and they will find and post your address, weight and financial information on every platform in existence.

The done-it-all: These trolls know and have experienced everything. Their knowledge is paramount and they will drown you in facts and anecdotes until you give up.

The rent-a-mob: This troll will bring a like-minded troll army with them to fight the cause. Be warned, the army could be just one person in disguise.

The snob: This troll will just post *yawn*, *slow hand clap* or a rolling eye gif after every post they deem below par. 

The downer: This troll complains about everything: too much information, not enough information, boring posts, it was better last year, someone else does it better and no one listens.

Troll taming tips

  • Make sure you have a community manager to monitor responses across all your online and social channels. 
  • Respond quickly. Negative posts turn into viral social media crises when there hasn’t been a quick enough answer. A five minute check at the start of the day is not enough reputation management.
  • Your first step is to check if it is a genuine complaint and if there has been a service delivery issue. 
  • Perhaps there has been a simple misunderstanding? Without saying they are wrong, which could inflame the situation, gently give the correct information.
  • If you’ve tried your best and you have a flamer or swearer troll type to deal with, let’s hope you’ve got some clear house rules to refer to. On your online spaces make clear your community guidelines, such as posts with swearing or that bully people will be removed.
  • Be careful about censorship. Sensible house rules are necessary for a good community atmosphere, but don’t go too far and remove all negative posts. If you do, people won’t bother to engage or make return visits.

Treat the troll like gold dust

Handling criticism well in public is a strong marketing tool and boosts public confidence in your business. If you can demonstrate you can handle difficult conversations in public, your community will trust your customer service ethos and will see you put the individual at the centre of your business.

While each troll case is different, good planning and processes can help replace the white heat of panic with calm efficiency. If you need social media troll role-play practice or training in social media monitoring and tools, we offer bespoke sessions, contact us [email protected]