Killing Trolls with Kindness

Posted By Mandi Lindner on Jan 15, 2013 | 0 comments


Every interaction is a chance to tell your brand’s story. Every interaction helps build your brand’s story. So why aren’t you more mindful when you interact with others online?

Look, it’s easy to rant in the heat of the moment. It’s easy to focus on your complaints while ignoring the praises. But it only takes a few words of negativity to ruin millions spent in advertising, and that’s not restricted to corporate brand management either. You should consider your personal presence online as brand building as well, never knowing when a potential employer, customer, or family member will see what you say.

Your Organization

Sometimes negative responses to your brand come from bad experiences your customers have had. It may be a one-time thing with the response posted online in the heat of the moment. It may be constructive criticism that gives you an opportunity to grow and be better at what you do. Sometimes, however, negativity is posted anonymously and publicly by someone with a personal vendetta, which actually just happened at the organization where I work.

How do you deal with it so that you don’t compound the harm done to your brand?

Do Not:

  • Post anything in the heat of the moment – your emotions will be running high and, as a result, your response will not be written in the right frame of mind
  • Write anything on your own – seek second and third opinions from decision makers in your organization to ensure that what you post sounds as diplomatic as possible
  • Delete a less-than-stellar response – the worst thing to do, besides responding in an angry, defensive manner, is to then delete it without acknowledgement
  • Silence is never golden – do not ignore negativity, instead view it as an opportunity for your organization to rise to the challenge, apologize, and provide the customer with a positive experience instead

Do:

  • Apologize – the customer is not always right, but they should always win
  • Be Diplomatic – do not respond to the emotion, respond to the situation in a polite, gracious, and apologetic way
  • Kill them with kindness – be the bigger person and do anything within your power to make it right, ignoring the hate and remembering the hundreds of customers who don’t know the full story who could stumble across the post and judge you by your response

Personal

How you respond to negativity posted about you personally is a bit different than how you would respond when representing an organization.

Someone once posted very hurtful things about me online where they knew I would see it. At the time I was hurt and, quite frankly, a little stunned. I didn’t see it coming.

Then I got angry. I was angry about what was said. I was angry about the passive aggressive way it was said – not to my face, not even directly to me online, but in a place this person knew I would someday stumble upon it. And I was angry about the public-ness of the whole thing. Even though I was not explicitly named, those close to both of us would know it was written about me. And I hate scenes.

It was embarrassing. It was hurtful. And it ended a decade-long friendship.

So how did I respond?

I didn’t. Ever. In fact, this is the first time in six years that I’m discussing it publicly.

In my mind, what happened between this person and I was between us. No one else. They chose to make it public. I chose to publicly ignore it. Truth be told, I ignored it one-on-one as well. Maybe it’s just as childish, but we’ve never spoken since the day I saw the post. I’m loyal to a fault, which, fortunately or unfortunately, goes both ways. As Darcy famously said, “My good favor, once lost, is lost forever.”

Between you and me I suspect I might be better off without this relationship in my life, which is the extent of anything remotely bad I will ever say. I’m hoping you think it’s diplomatic, because that’s the best way to deal with these things personally too.

Take the high road. Don’t return anger with anger – it only compounds the problem just as it would in-person.

If you can ignore it, then do so. After all, most trolls aren’t worth your time.

If you can’t, then take the high road because other eyes will be on the exchange. Eyes that may or may not know the full depth of the situation, and eyes that may or may not belong to people you deal with on a professional or personal level. That’s the thing about the Internet. You just never know, so part of your personal presence is about brand-building as well. You need to be holding something back and always striving to present yourself in the best – yet still authentic – light.

What do you think?