How to Deal with Hecklers and Trolls

Most people who have been on social media for a while have already come around trolls and hecklers. Dealing with them while maintaining professionalism for your company/organization/agency is of the utmost importance. Below are my top tips to making the most of the situation you have found yourself in.

First let me say, aside for the last step these pointers work just as well in face to face encounter. When you first receive a criticism, you may experience the urge to immediately delete it – don’t. Most of the time, these posts will give your organization the opportunity to strengthen an obviously strained relationship as well as clear up any miscommunications.

Step 1: Acknowledge the complaint. Most of the time people want to feel heard. By repeating back their concern it shows you’re paying attention. Remember your responses are public – admitting fault where your organization has none is not recommended.

Step 2: Express empathy. Using statements that use feelings words humanize the already charged situation. This can be folded into step one, where you both acknowledge their concern while expressing empathy.

By responding directly to the post it allows people who are not involved to see the personality of the brand you are protecting.

Step 3: Know when to take correspondence offline. There are circumstances that you can solve within a couple of online posts. If the complaint is of a personal or extremely volatile situation take the situation away from social media. Offer them an email or phone number they can reach out to.

This offers empowers them. By giving them the opportunity to take control they will likely follow your lead. Be sure to reread the comment thread going back and forth and ensure that anyone else who reads it will be able to see that you have done everything that you could do to remedy the situation.

In case of trolls

Everything written above is when you are dealing with a member of the public who has a legitimate concern. Occasionally, you will run into people who are best categorized as trolls. They do not wish to be pacified. They’re only goal is derision. After acknowledging their complaint, and expressing empathy, if they show no signs of ceasing then stop interacting with them.

There is a common saying in social media, “do not feed the trolls.” By interacting with them at all, you only provide more ammunition for them to use against you.

Should a post spiral out of control be prepared to delete it. Only do this when the post is going to do more harm than good, when more people are going to be drawn into the skirmish than could become proponents of your agency.

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