Companies engage with customers in more ways than ever. These engagements are more public than ever, too. Previously, the business controlled the public content, through ads and marketing activities. Interactions with consumers were private.
Today, though, social media makes interactions with customers public. Sometimes negative comments on social media are legitimate customer complaints that merit an investigation and corporate response. Sometimes, however, they're trolls who simply enjoy provoking, or, worse, want to damage the company.
It's difficult to manage trolls; simply shutting down a forum can also lead to negative publicity. Companies can use the following strategies in responding to trolls instead.
Don't Respond at All
Sometimes the best thing you can do with a troll is to ignore them. They are intending to provoke a response; when they don't get one, they're likely to go away. Don't send automatic replies, which just prolong the interaction.
Find the Funny
If the complaint isn't about a serious situation, find a way to make a joke about it. Humor helps defuse online anger as effectively as it does in the real world. Just make sure the joke is a funny response to the situation. Making light of the situation or making fun of the commenter won't have the effect you want.
Keep Them Hidden
You don't want to block legitimate gripes, but you own your social media outlets and you don't need to approve every comment for display. On some sites, you can review comments before they're publicly posted. You can also define standards of behavior and hire moderators to enforce them. Commenters who repeatedly violate standards can be banned from the forum.
Don't Allow Anonymity
Trolls are much more likely to operate when they can keep their identities secret. Requiring posters to provide real identity information, even when not displayed on the site, helps ensure civil behavior.
Investigate and Respond
Not all negative comments should be ignored or buried. If there is truth to the complaint, acknowledge the facts of the situation and find a suitable resolution. Your biggest detractor can become your biggest booster if you correct a problem.