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Outwit the Social Media Trolls

Do you remember the fable about the Three Billy Goats Gruff?

They try to cross a bridge to a grassy meadow on the other side and are intercepted by a cranky troll who lives in the river.

Well, thanks to technology, the trolls have crept out of the muddy water and are thriving on social media.

How do we handle these digital critters without being gobbled up?

As business owners we are constantly told we need to engage in social media to promote our brand, reach new customers and enjoy greener pastures.

But when we enter the social media zone, we expose ourselves to the slings and arrows of cowardly souls anonymously venting their anger through their keyboards.

I recently wrote an article in The Australian on the trials and tribulations of being left-handed. It was a light-hearted piece on the ten per cent of us who are born favouring our southpaw. The angle was Left-Handers Day, which is celebrated, mainly in the UK, on August 13.

Most of the comments on The Australian website were from left-handers sharing their battles with scissors, lawnmowers and the computer mouse, while others bragged about beating righties on the tennis and squash courts. But there were a couple of comments that took me by surprise.

“What a load of whiney nonsense,” wrote one cynic, who was quickly pounced on by people challenging him to operate a chainsaw with his left hand. One commentator complained that taxpayers’ money should not be wasted on celebrating something that was clearly a life style choice. (Ha!) Another even nuttier commentator claimed this was bogus science supported by the UN, which hated freedom.

I found this all pretty amusing but also baffling.

But how would I react if I were attacked online about something very dear to me? You might say, ‘grow a tougher skin and move on.’ In most cases that is good advice. I’m grateful I am not a celebrity or politician who receives daily insults, although they usually have staff to deal with those.

But no matter how tough our skins are, unkind, offensive remarks can still sting and potentially damage our business brand.

So, here’s some advice for dealing with trolls:

1. Ignore them – don’t give them the attention they crave

2. Use humour to disarm them (but nothing hurtful)

3. Use facts to counter their lies or rumours

4. Block them from your account or platform

5. Report them – bullying is a violation of Facebook and Twitter policy.

Remember: In the end, all three Billy Goats Gruff outwitted the troll and got to the other side. So will you.

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