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June 2, 2020

Fighting Social Media’s Trolls—and Coming Out Smelling Like a Rose

By Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

The internet is full of negativity, and it’s particularly bad when it comes to the subject of firearms. Internet rumors, fake news on both sides of the aisle and internet vigilantes with nothing better to do than sit behind their screen and spew hate are just some of the issues retailers face while trying to market a business online.

The impulse, of course, is to strike back in one way or another. But no matter how right you are about whatever it is you’re talking about, you can ruin your reputation and your business with one mishandled or misconstrued statement. Here are some tips to keep you out of trouble online when you are dealing with negativity.

  • Never take anything personally. Ever. The people who are the most successful at social media marketing, especially during a crisis, realize two things: one, that the person on the other side of the screen does not realize they are a real person, and two, that the person on the other side of the screen is also a real person.

What do I mean by that?

The person on the other side of the screen acting in an irrational or combative manner has something else going on in their life that has nothing to do with you, and they are projecting their negativity on to you. If you engage with that person in the same way they engage with you, you lose. They have spread their negativity and agenda on to you and distracted you from making a living.

On the flip side, you must see that they are a real person, with real feelings and opinions. If you do that, it will be much easier to craft a response that calms that person down, or at least shows the rest of the social media lurkers that you are a rational, professional and caring human being.

  • Use the “block” button as needed—and don’t be stingy about it. Some people are on your page just because they are bored. You can usually tell because they start just responding to you in memes or GIFs. Don’t argue, just block and ignore. Others are there to trip you up, waiting for you to make a mistake, even baiting you to do so, so that they can “expose” you, and if that’s the case, then it is really important to block them. Keep in mind, too, that this latter type of troll will continue their attacks through fake accounts as well, so be wary if you see a flurry of activity, especially if wording, memes and GIFs start to look too similar.
  • If you see a person who does have a valid concern or someone who wants to have an intelligent exchange of ideas online, try to move that conversation into private messaging. This creates a more personal interaction in which both people are more likely to have a constructive conversation. It also helps you as a business owner discover if having such a conversation was the true intention of that person on the other side of the screen; if they were just in the public comments to get attention, then they will disappear from a private conversation very quickly.
  • This won’t apply to everyone, but it applies to enough that it’s worth emphasizing: Never administer a social media account while under the influence! When we’re not sober, we lose our ability to temper our responses to negative comments about our posts. This inevitably leads to a fight online, usually including screenshots of any ridiculousness that comes out of it.

Far too many people are looking to glom on to online drama—that’s why they’re called trolls—and when you engage with them on their level, you will blow up online and not in a good way. Bottom line, if you take part in the after-work happy hour or have a glass of wine with dinner, step away from social media until you’ve had the next morning’s cup of coffee.

As beneficial, productive and entertaining internet and social media are, they are, unfortunately, also the places where a wealth of negativity and drama play out. Do not get sucked in and damage your online reputation by participating in the negative side of things. Instead, build a viable online community, one that works to profit your business, by adding value through positive interaction. In the long term, the algorithm will reward you for your efforts.

About the Author
Hannah Stonehouse Hudson is a keynote speaker, coach and social media communications strategist. As the owner of HSH Communications, she helps people and organizations reach the most people on social media, and she is the instructor of the popular online course How to Get the MOST Eyes on Your Social Media Content.

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