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For any small business owner or startup entrepreneur, one risk that always exists is that social media trolls will systematically work to damage everything you have worked so hard to create.
In a base-case scenario, they will undermine your company’s reputation and sow seeds of doubt in the minds of your customers. In a worst-case scenario, they will lead to waves of customers or prospects departing en masse and potential legal or regulatory issues. The bad news is that there is no real way of avoiding these social media trolls entirely. The good news is that there are some proven, effective steps that you can take to mitigate their impact.
Tip #1: Be proactive in managing your brand
First of all, you need to be proactive in managing your brand and your company’s reputation. That means that you have to put social media monitoring tools in place BEFORE disaster strikes, and not after. That way, you can spot these social media trolls at the very beginning before they have a chance to intimidate your customers, spread fake news, or advocate for your competitors. On a daily basis, someone within your organization needs to be looking at what people are saying about your brand or business online, tracking which hashtags are trending, and noting which accounts are most active.
Tip #2: Use social proof to counter harmful content
You never want to go toe-to-toe with harmful trolls, but you can take some counter-measures to limit the damage. One of the most effective methods is simply using “social proof” as a way to show customers that the social media trolls have it all wrong. Let’s say, for example, that you operate an award-winning restaurant, and that you have a very satisfied customer base. But all of a sudden, a social media troll starts bashing you on Yelp or some other review site. Here is where all the “social proof” can help. In your response to the troll, you can leave behind links to positive reviews or glowing critiques. And on your website and across social media, you can highlight reviews from loyal customers.
Tip #3: Take steps to disempower the trolls
Keep in mind that trolls feed on exposure and influence. If they see that they are having an impact, they will continue to appear. However, if you make it close to impossible for them to have any say or influence, then they will eventually leave for easier pickings somewhere else. If you run a corporate blog, for example, you could turn off the comments to any post, thereby rendering any social media troll powerless. Or, you could take away their anonymity. Force them to expose their name or contact information, and they will run away. (Trolls, like most scary monsters, are afraid of the light.) Simply moving from free and open content to gated content available only to community members, for example, is one way to disempower trolls.
At the end of the day, your brand or small business needs to take the high road when dealing with social media trolls. The last thing you need is an ongoing Twitter feud with a troll, or a series of nasty exchanges between your mods and trolls during a livestream show. If you are proactive in managing your brand, arm yourself with plenty of social proof, and adopt easy, no-nonsense approaches to disempowering trolls, you will be well on your way to protecting your business from the harmful impacts of those nasty social media trolls.