PR Blogging Tips: The Problem of Online Trolls and How To Handle Them

If it gets nasty, do not feed the trolls!

When I was a child, I had a toy troll doll. With its brightly colored hair and odd facial expression, my troll doll was cute in an amusing sort of way.

In the Internet world, however, trolls are neither cute nor amusing. In fact, they can be a real nuisance for a website owner.

The term “troll” has come to mean a commentator who leaves disruptive comments on a post or forum simply for the purpose of making trouble or drawing attention to themselves.

When faced with “trollish” comments many website owners are left wondering what they should do.

I would suggest that the first step is to determine whether you are really dealing with a troll (someone who is merely there to cause trouble) or with someone who has a genuine interest in your topic. For example, your “trollish” commentator could be someone who is genuinely passionate about the topic (but happens to disagree with you). Or, they might be a disgruntled customer who needs some attention.

One way to identify a troll is that they usually cannot be reasoned with. A true troll will reject any offers of genuine help. In my observation, the more a troll posts, the less sense their comments make.

As a PR professional, your first reaction to a troll might by to jump in and correct the troll’s comments. However, since most trolls thrive on attention this might only feed the troll’s appetite and cause him or her to leave even more comments.

When it comes to dealing with trolls, here are your options:

  1. Feed the troll. Respond to the comment and/or comments (or ask your friends to respond). This option will likely lead to more responses from the troll. However, if the troll’s comments are spreading serious misinformation that others may believe, then you may find that posting correct information is your best alternative.
  2. Ignore the troll. Don’t respond to the comment and or comments. If you ignore a trollish comment, often the troll will get bored and go away. This is a particularly good option when you know that the troll’s comments hold no real credibility and are unlikely to be believed by your readers.
  3. Delete the troll. If your comment policy allows for it, you can delete the troll’s comments. This is a particularly good option when the troll’s comments contain obscene or offensive materials or links. Once the troll sees that his or her comments are not being published, they will usually go away.
  4. Close comments. If the situation becomes too out-of-hand, you may wish to close down comments on a particular post or forum thread. Closing comments often ends the trollish behavior and preserves your credibility with your readers.

Have you faced trolls recently (the online kind, not the cute toy)? If so, how have you dealt with them?

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  1. Matt Keegan says

    Trolls don’t stand a chance on my blogs. When trollish behavior is found, I simply delete the comment and move on.

    I don’t make myself an easy target for trolls meaning that I show no mercy for bad behavior. Of course, if they have a change of heart, they can add meaningful and helpful content later on which I’ll quickly approve.

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