They are the Internet bullies. They spare no one. Hiding behind fictitious identities or absolute anonymity, trolls are infamous for spreading hate and negativity on social networks. Brands, especially, have to be cautious about posting or commenting, lest they fall into the troll trap. A seemingly innocuous post or tweet can be played up by trolls as being racist or misogynistic, setting a trail of hate messages on social media.
Turns out, there is no way companies can avoid getting trolled. They can, however, manage it deftly. The first step, according to Saurabh Mathur, Planning Director of VML India, a digital marketing agency, is to carefully differentiate between a genuinely anguished customer complaint and a troll, before drafting the reply. "Not all negative comments are trolls; some can be real concerns of consumers that have to be resolved."
If it is a troll, companies have to decide if they want to take on the trolls playfully, or be conservative and not comment at all.
Siddharth Deshmukh, Associate Dean, Area Leader - Digital Platform & Strategies, MICA, is all for being adventurous. "Brands take themselves too seriously," he says. "What companies need to do is lose their stuffiness and engage with fun and humour. To deal with trolls you have to speak their language. You have to own the trolls."
Under the garb of humour, brands can even get confrontational - without humour this can antagonise the troll further leading to an unpleasant situation. The jocular tone, Deshmukh says, will get others on your side to take on the troll with full gusto.
When Netflix India announced the launch of comedian Aditi Mittal's stand-up special to its users, trolls termed it as a 'token gesture' by the company to get a female comedian on board. When one user asked, "Is it because she's a good comedian or that she is a woman...Seems conspicuously timed given the hissy fits over Amazon's choice", the company replied: "Because she's a good comedian. The fact that she's a badass woman is a happy coincidence." When a user tweeted, "Why's Netflix lowering their brand?" Netflix replied, "Because we like dropping it like it's hot." Its witty comebacks garnered cheers and applause on social media as also, inadvertently, more build-up for the show.
Some companies prefer silence over confrontation. The model in Trivago's TV ad was trolled for being 'intrusive,' 'scruffy' and 'annoying'. Some even declared that they did not use the hotel search engine because they "didn't like the 'bearded model'". All the abusive and defamatory tweets went unanswered.
"The trolling was not about the product or service, so we did not reply," says Abhinav Kumar, Country Development (India) Head at Trivago, and the model in question. He, however, replied to some trolls personally. Kumar says, admittedly, that trolling worked in the company's favour as it generated a lot of interest in Trivago, even though at the model's (his own) expense.
Several Facebook comments and tweets were posted, and many articles were written on the Trivago ad, ensuring free publicity for the site. In the new ad, scheduled to go on air in a few weeks, Trivago has incorporated some of the comments. Viewers can expect to see a well-groomed model sporting stylish clothes.
Whether by silencing trolls with repartees or by letting silence ease matters, not letting trolls take a toll on the brand's image is key. ~
Keeping a Tab
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Consumer sentiment on brand behaviour on social media
Consumer reaction to irritating brand behaviour on social media