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Internet Strategy: How To Handle An Internet Troll

Posted by Jody Raines

Internet Troll, How To Deal With An Internet TrollInternet strategy is determining how to place information including keywords and content onto the Internet in a manner that will attract the appropriate audience to your website, webpage or blog.  Its inbound marketing - the art of positioning and appealing to a market segment.  One of the things that is a nemesis of successful Internet marketers are the Internet Trolls. 

An Internet troll is a person who seeks conflict.  They are energized by conflict and tend to promote their antagonistic presence as a way to boost their tiny ego.

At first, you may think that the troll is powerful, but in reality the best way to deal with a troll is to recognize the troll-like behaviors, and once you have done that,  you have removed their ability to evoke emotion.

In fact, having a troll that attempts to pick on you is a bit of a status symbol. You know you aren't someone until you have at least one troll who tries to incite an audience against you.  It's kind of sad in a way, especially when the troll gets caught up in the stalking and harassing behaviors.

The first step to dealing with trolls is to understand that there are some people who are energized by conflict. These people thrive on attempts to cause harm.  If you understand and appreciate that, you should also recognize whether you are a person who thrives on conflict as well.  If you are, then it's fine to engage with the troll and try to go head to head, comment to comment, however, if you realize that is not your style, and you just want the troll to go away, then it's time to come up with another way to deal with the troll. 

I love the way that Nicole Sullivan defined the problem with trolls in her presentation at the Fluent conference, published on the Internet in May of 2012.  My friend Phil shared this with me when we were discussing trolls and their behavior.  It's one of the best presentations I've seen, and it truly shares why you should not feed the trolls by stooping to their level.

Nicole is an incredibly knowlegable female geek (is that a geekette?), who started the Object-Oriented CSS open source project - a method to scale CSS. She also consulted with the W3C for their beta redesign, and is the co-creator of Smush.it, an image optimization service in the cloud. 

According to Nicole, to respond to a troll means your life will be filled with trolls and troll-like nonsense. 

Understanding who you are and how you should respond is the first step to appropriately defusing a troll.  If you are not someone who enjoys engaging in conflict, like the troll, then you will never win responding to the troll.

You may also have noticed that attempts to reason with the troll may not work.  Any form of attention seems to excite them.  They are obsessed with causing havoc and it may seem at some point like they don't even know what their own motivation is, except they seem to want to always get the last word.  Even if that word doesn't seem to help.

You know when you are at the supermarket and you see the mom with a kid who acts up and screams because they want candy. And as much as the kid screams, the mom says no.  Until finally the mom cannot stand it any longer, and she may give in. That's the worst thing you can do with a troll.

Instead, recognize the troll for what it is, then try to deal with the troll-like behavior based upon the type of troll that they are:

  • Jealous Troll.  These trolls can be recognized because no matter what you discuss, they've done it better, first or more.   The best response to these trolls is to stroke their ego, even if you do not believe what they are saying. I learned years ago in Dale Carnegie to use a great experession "If I was you, I'd feel exactly the way you do." The reality is I am NOT you and I don't feel the same, but for some reason, a troll takes comfort by thinking they've been heard. 
  • Grammar Troll.  These trolls seem to want to pick on your punctuation, as if that makes them somehow better than you. Typically I'll thank the grammar troll for their keen ability to find those mistakes and then correct them if the troll was accurate.  I've always believed you get more flies with honey than with vinegar and actually, this troll is providing a service of sorts, right? 
  • Biased Troll. These are trolls who expect others to think as they think or else they have to push their ideals onto you.  We saw a lot of these during political campaigns. If you don't agree with the biased Troll, you may feel that they are an idiot. If you do agree, you may feel that they are a genius.  Either way, you will only encourage them by engaging, so don't engage. 
  • Anti-bias Troll. Just as bad as the "Bias Troll" because they accuse everyone else of being biased.  Again, encouraging these Internet trolls will result in more troll postings.   Ignoring them (and not clicking "Like" on their comment) may be the best course of action.
  • Scary Troll. These trolls are the worst.  They may personally attack you and cite your articles. They attempt to discredit you personally by publishing untruthful information.  They may even resort to defacing your image.  This is where you need to determine whether the Troll is all bluff, or whether they truly mean you harm.  

With each of these Internet trolls, the response should never be to feed the troll. Do not engage with them, do not respond to them, do not even acknowledge them.  Instead, use your support network to discuss the situation and seek assistance if needed. 

Another example of dealing with Internet Trolls is in this humorous YouTube video posted by CollegeHumor.  It's about the Internet Bridge Troll.  

Having an Internet Troll is not always a bad thing. If you think about it, in some unanticipated way they are helping you with ranking and search engine optimization by providing links and visits to your website.  Just because they are posting derogatory information does not mean it resonates with an audience.  It may just prove how off-track and unstable they are.  

Plus, controversy does help website visits.  

It is a shame that there will always be unstable people who feel that the Internet is a forum to malign others.  Hopefully the trolls will grow up, but in the meantime, don't feed the trolls.

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Topics: inbound marketing, internet strategy, Internet troll