How Your Business Can Manage Online Trolls

Glenn Langridge 22 Dec 2020
3 mins

Your business will always have detractors and promoters. Detractors will find any excuse to bring you down and take attention away from serving your community, clients or customers. Promoters are people who will publicly back your organisation.

A troll will always be a detractor and there are several ways to deal with them, but first, let’s define a troll – and no, we’re not talking about the thing that lives under a bridge.

What is an online troll?

Trolling is creating conflict on the internet by starting disputes or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community. In essence, an internet troll is someone who purposely says something contentious to get a rise out of other users.

Internet trolls started appearing in the 90s, when online discussion boards, comment threads, and groups were gaining popularity. The term originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in the online darkness and threaten people.

Responding to online trolls

Conventional wisdom says that businesses should respond to everyone on social media. When someone takes the time to reach out to a company, they want to be acknowledged. But online trolls are looking to provoke a response … so should you engage?

First, don’t immediately assume every negative comment is a troll. Be careful, the person may have a legitimate grievance that needs to be addressed, even if it has been worded in an unnecessarily aggressive way. But if you have established that they are just trolling, it’s time for action.

Encourage an offline conversation

If trolls are the digital embodiment of social media evil, then kindness is their kryptonite. The best policy is to be professional in your response by thanking them for their feedback…as hard as it may be. Then encourage an offline conversation by referring the troll to an email or phone number to file a formal complaint.

But what if the online troll comes back for more?

Real customers with real complaints are usually looking for one thing: a solution.

If the request to take it offline is met with further trolling, you can either leave the comment and allow your first comment to do that talking, showing your other followers you tried to rectify it and take it offline. If you feel the new comments add additional context or change the original meaning of the engagement you can make another attempt to take it offline and then leave it. Never go round for a third attempt.

Respond with facts

If your trolls are spreading inaccurate information or outright lies online, then it’s important to provide the facts.

The best way to do this is to have an FAQ section or information on your website that you can point to. This shows that you have already considered the issues in question and you are not reacting to a particular post.

Generate positivity and build a supportive community

The best way to combat harsh comments and reviews is to build a positive and supportive community. When responding to trolls, focus less on changing the mind of the troll and more on what kind of impression it will give to others who read it. Your supporters will most likely chime in to make trolls feel unwelcome.

If there is evidence that your organisation isn’t the first to be attacked by this person, report the person to the social media platform.

The internet should be a place to share and connect

The internet and social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provide great ways to share knowledge and engage with the world around you. For businesses and brands, it provides effective ways to engage with users and customers.

Most organisations will at some point have to deal with online trolls. Developing a clear strategy as to how your company will combat trolls and ensuring your team understands how to respond is an important first step.


Glenn Langridge is Purple’s Head of Digital, involved in all aspects of digital strategy and campaigning. Glenn helps clients achieve their goals through smart use of social media, digital tools, and the latest platforms.

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Glenn Langridge More from author

Glenn is Purple’s Director of Digital, bringing together a wealth of digital-agency and leadership experience to deliver unique digital solutions for his clients, and empower his expert team to success.

Glenn has a proven track record of building award-winning digital campaigns, bridging the gap between marketing strategy and technical digital delivery for leading organisations across Australia, Singapore, London and the U.S.

His areas of expertise include digital strategy, website strategy, paid advertising and creative campaign planning, while always maintaining a results-driven focus across both strategy and execution for his clients.

Glenn is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, an accredited Agile project management coach and holds a double degree in Commerce and Arts from The University of Western Australia. Glenn applies this knowledge and experience to build sustainable and well-informed strategies beyond technical considerations, while educating and innovating his clients along the way.

Glenn’s organised, considered and creative approach to digital project management has seen the successful delivery of more than 60 website projects, alongside the management of momentous campaigns for Notre Dame, Baker Tilly International, INX Software and Royal Flying.

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