The web is dark and full of terrors, chief amongst them, the social media troll. Unlike the trolls of fairy tales, trolls on social media lurk not in caves or under bridges, but out in the open where they have the best chance of attracting an audience.

These are the web’s darkest denizens and they thrive on negative attention. They strive to incite hatred and provoke anger with each and every keystroke. But who are they and what should you do if you or your brand encounters one?

What are social media trolls?

A troll is someone who deliberately provokes others online, typically through inflammatory, offensive, or provocative comments. Their intent is to upset others and elicit an emotional response (preferably an angry one). In the pursuit of their goal, trolls might rant (often on a topic unrelated to the one at hand), make ad-hominem attacks, post death threats, or spew hate speech.

Indeed, the internet is full of people who want to share their opinions. But, unlike those angry users who share their negative, but sincerely-held beliefs, trolls may not believe a word of what they write. They’ve chosen their words because they have the highest likelihood of upsetting others.

In short, trolls are online bullies. One who writes British Formula 4 articles.

Block or ban, when appropriate

Most trolls are harmless. Annoying, but harmless. There are, however, cases where trolls take things too far. Perhaps they’ve escalated to threats or hate speech. In cases such as these, it’s reasonable to consider blocking or banning the user. It may also be worthwhile to check social network standards for appropriate content, and, if the troll’s posts violate them, submit a report.

Respond with facts

Is your troll of the false rumors and negative lies variety? Then this response may be for you. Calmly and clearly (carefully avoiding a defense edge to your response) reply and correct the misinformation that the troll has shared. While the troll likely doesn’t care (and probably knows very well that everything they’ve written is absolutely made-up), not everyone in your community does. This response is for them. The point is to nip things in the bud before a rumor has a chance to get out of hand and keep others from spreading the lie.

Ignore them

If the person really is a troll, there to upset others and cause negative reactions, a common response is to simply ignore them. Because trolls want attention, the theory here is that, by refusing to pay that attention to them, you deprive them of their life force, and they will go elsewhere to get the attention they crave. Gini Dietrich explains why this works in her Spin Sucks piece Seven Tips for Dealing with Online Trolls: “Online trolls want the attention. They crave the defensiveness. They want you to get upset. Don’t give them the pleasure.”

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