Social media management can be a tough nut to crack. Overseeing profiles across several platforms with a multitude of followers can leave you with pleasant as well as bitter experiences. While most followers are kind with their words, a few can be hard-nosed.

You can try as hard as you like to keep all your customers happy, but the truth is that doing so is almost impossible. Because social media is easily accessible, it has become the first place where peeved customers vent their ire.

And then there are trolls, who incessantly try to malign your brand and derive sadistic pleasure out of it. Keeping them at bay is of utmost importance to protect your brand’s image.

Managing all of this can get tricky because at many levels, your social media profile serves as the face of your brand, which you definitely want to keep spotlessly clean.

Is this really possible to achieve? Let’s take a look.

How to Tell Trolls from Genuinely Dissatisfied Customers

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You may be getting negative feedback, but not all those who complain may be trolls.

So, who is a troll? According to techopedia, a troll is a member of an Internet community who posts offensive, divisive and controversial comments.

A social media troll is someone who stirs up arguments and conflicts on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter by posting contentious and provocative content with the aim to elicit emotionally-charged heated responses from other users.

In fact, the messages can be inflammatory to the extent that they can divert the focus from the actual issue and turn a logical, civilized discussion into a war of words involving personal remarks and profanities.

If you often find yourself on the receiving end of spiteful messages on your social media account, chances are there’s a troll at work. A few typical characteristics of trolls include:

  • Their accounts do not have personal pictures.
  • They are uncouth and do not hesitate in using foul language and doling out personal attacks.
  • They do not care for your opinion and/or the reasons you provide to justify your stand.
  • Their messages (and replies) appear quickly, indicating that they have lots of free time, which they spend starting fights on social media.

Once you’ve realized that you are, indeed, being trolled, you will need to work towards taking control of the situation. Do not get unnecessarily intimidated.

You can hire social media management professionals to manage your social profiles, who will be adept at dealing with them. However, if you plan to manage them by yourself, here’s how you can put trolls in their place:

1. Ignore to Avoid

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Trolls are, essentially, attention seekers and derive a sense of achievement by annoying others. They are like children throwing tantrums when they feel that that’s what they need to do to become the center of attention. The best and the most effective way of dealing with them is to ignore them.

By doing so, you will cut off the source of their satisfaction, and they will likely go off and look for someone else to troll.

2. Give Them an Unlikely Response

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Sometimes, completely ignoring a troll can backfire and you may be required to respond to him/her to take stock of the situation. That’s because even if you successfully ignore him/her, your fans or friends might not, and the troll may ultimately come back to haunt you.

If this does happen, jump in early to save the day. Respond quickly and politely. Thank the troll for his/her opinion and get on with your life. With time, the troll will too.

3. Refrain from Adding Fuel to the Fire

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A troll is a troll is a troll. You never know how low they can stoop, which is why it may be best to avoid getting into a tit-for-tat war. Responding to them with malevolence will only damage your brand’s image and reputation. Further, getting a response (or your attention) from you will egg them on to continue trolling you.

4. Don’t Even Try to Show Reason

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There’s no point in trying to engage a troll in logical banter. As mentioned, they’re only seeking attention and will go to any extent to do so. That is the whole point of their existence on social media, and not discussing issues with an open mind. Reasoning with them will only lead to a waste of your time (and not theirs). Don’t become a part of the chaos.

Responding to Negative Comments by Customers

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You probably know that there’s a difference between worthless trolls and customers who like (or used to like) your brand, but are beginning to show a change of heart. Most of the time, unhappy customers leave simple complaints, but sometimes they can get extremely upset and make sure that others on your community know about it.

In such cases, you will need to plan ahead carefully so that you not only pacify and retain dissatisfied customers, but also the other community members. Responding instead of reacting is key. The following steps can help:

1. Do Not Take It Personally

Remember, the grievance is with a product or a service you offer and not an attack on you. So, there really isn’t any need to take the complaint personally. The customer is responding to his/her experience with your business just as he/she would with any other business. When he/she comments on your business, it is not a reflection of you as a person.

2. Always Respond

When it comes to customer complaints, it is recommended that you always respond to them as soon as possible. Make the response public so that other people see your efforts to tackle the problem.

Remember, your competitors will spend their precious time trying to swoop in and sway your angry customers their way, which is why you should be spending time trying to keep them with you. A timely response is a must in this regard.

3. Acknowledge the Complaint

When a customer is upset or frustrated and vents his/her anger openly on social media, he/she would first like to know that the grievance has been heard. You will, therefore, do well to acknowledge the complaint by starting your response with an apology for the unsatisfactory experience.

4. Do Not Make Excuses

It is human nature to provide reasoning for blame. But, avoid making excuses as doing so will only portray you in poor light. Flimsy excuses only convey that you’re shying away from taking accountability for what happened and trying to pass the blame on to others.

Your customers aren’t interested in hearing about your whys because it isn’t their problem. Instead, own up to the error and offer to make things right.

5. Play to Your Strengths

Do not hesitate in highlighting your strengths positively when responding to negative comments.

For example, when dealing with a customer service-related issue, respond by saying, “We apologize that our customer service staff wasn’t cooperative. We’ve been in this business for over 20 years serving thousands of customers, and each customer is important to us. Please accept our offer of…”

The making up may come with a price, but it is important to show potential customers that your business values people.

6. Take It Offline

If you’ve offered to refund a purchase, there’s no harm in asking your customers for verification. It is obvious that you will need proof to ascertain that you have business with them. However, do not put this in your public response.

Contact the customer privately to provide him/her with your contact details and ask them to get in touch with you in private to process the refund. Offering discounts or the number to your direct line publicly can lead to other people unnecessarily creating problems to get the same special treatment. Hence, do so discreetly.

Removing the conversation from the public eye and taking it private will open up more avenues for you to address his/her complaints. Further, doing so will enable you to extend a personal touch that shows you care.

7. Request Your Customer to Remove Post

So you’ve managed to resolve the tension and are back to being in your customer’s good books. This may be the right time to ask your customer to take their complaint of your wall. After all, your social media wall is a huge part of your online presence.

The customer may be unaware of how critical a complaint-free wall is to your reputation. It is absolutely okay to privately asking him/her to remove the post, if he/she hasn’t done so already post resolving the problem.

8. Formulate a Social Media Policy

Having a social media policy can guard your social media profiles from trolls and other undesirable and unwanted commentators who do not merit a response. Feel free delete hate speech and inflammatory words from your wall.

Further, you will do well to post a disclaimer in the ‘About’ section of your profile pages, which explains what kind of posts are and aren’t okay on them.

Conclusion

The way your brand responds to the feedback it receives says a lot about how your business will do in future. In fact, the responses are under constant scrutiny by customers who are looking to size up your brand. Social media trolls can make things difficult for the survival of a business as handling aggressive and negative feedback can be quite tricky.

The above tips should steer you on the right course when dealing with them. They should also help you respond to disgruntled customers, win their hearts and retain them. Put the tips in practice and you will redeem your position in your customer’s eyes, leaving trolls and their tactics futile.

Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of Preceptist, a content marketing agency for SaaS businesses.