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You’ve probably heard of “internet trolls” before, but if not, this term refers to people who purposefully post negative comments online — often anonymously. These internet users are usually looking to start disputes instead of contributing to online conversations.
Trolls are common on social media and forums, but if your blog becomes big enough, they may show up in your comment section as well. If you’re being bothered by combative commenters, here are a few tips on how to deal with trolls and keep your blog a positive place for your audience.
Head off troll problems by creating a commenting policy on your blog. The comment section should be a place for your followers to share their thoughts. Small Biz Trends explains that a good commenting policy will actually encourage people to engage, as it lets them know you’re trying to foster a positive, inclusive community.
What should your comment policy include? If nothing else, you’ll want to outline the types of comments you’ll delete. In general, it’s OK to remove the following from your comment section:
- Spam and unwanted ads
- Vulgar, derogatory, or otherwise offensive language
- Slurs, swears, and/or threats
- Personal attacks on yourself or other commenters
- Links to unrelated content
While it’s acceptable to censor offensive or off-topic comments, it isn’t wise to remove every critique and criticism. This will make you seem disingenuous, which can be off-putting to fans. Your comment policy should encourage conversations of all types, just as long as they’re relevant.
You’ll want to write up a short policy that outlines these “rules” for your comment section, and make sure to publish it where visitors can see, such as a page or in a Text Widget in your sidebar or footer. This will serve as a warning sign that trolls aren’t welcome.
What happens when someone leaves a provoking comment that doesn’t violate your policy? You have a few options on how to handle it — but often, the best thing you can do is ignore them.
Paul Jun, a self-admitted former troll, explains on 99u that people engage in this type of behavior because they’re bored and want attention. If you engage, you’re giving them the fight they were after, and you probably aren’t going to “get across” to them.
“You will never beat a troll,” Jun writes. “You will never change a troll’s mind … never in my years of dealing with trolls have I seen a troll lay down his or her arms and say, ‘You know what, you’re right. I was so wrong.'”
If someone is trying to pick a fight, do your best to put your ego aside and walk away. When you don’t engage, the person will probably just move on.
However, there are instances where negative comments merit a response. If your blog is affiliated with your business, a troll could be a customer who needs help.
“If the online troll is really just a customer complaining, know the difference and listen,” Gini Dietrich, CEO of marketing firm Arment Dietrich, tells Forbes. “Sometimes people just want to be heard. Hear them, try to help, and they’ll almost always thank you publicly.”
In these instances, responding in a helpful, empathetic manner may help your blog and business, because it shows you truly care. If you do your best to help to no avail, offer to take the conversation offline. If that still doesn’t work, it may be time to walk away — as any customer service rep will tell you, you can’t please everyone.
Trolls aren’t an intractable problem. When you learn how to deal with trolls with a cool head, it can help grow your community.
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