Crisis Communications: 3 Steps to Take to Manage Social Media Trolls

By Gerard Braud

Troll BlogWould you let social media trolls take over your social media sites? In your crisis communications plan what pre-determines how you will deal with social media trolls?

Social media trolls are usually mean-spirited people who hide behind an anonymous persona and live for the joy of making other people miserable by posting mean comments on corporate social media sites. Trolls are the bullies of the social media playground.

A troll may target your social media site randomly and verbally attack your company for something they don’t like on the spur of the moment. Trolls usually seek out corporate sites during a crisis to add their mean two-cents. Trolls may rise to the level of organized activists who attack your site as a group.

Trolls are the social media equivalent of either a single activist throwing eggs on your CEO at a high profile public event or the equivalent of protesters with signs picketing outside your corporate headquarters.

Today is a good day to put time on your calendar to debate internally what your strategy should be. As expected, the debate I ignited when I posed the question of whether a social media site should ever be pulled down is an indication of the conflicting opinions and passion we see among PR people over this topic. It also means there is probably conflicting opinions internally where you work.

Do you want to wrestle with those opinions in the midst of a crisis? I hope you say NOOOoooooooo!

So what should you do? Here are 3 steps to take:

1) You should schedule time on a clear sunny day to discuss and debate this issue with your corporate leadership.

2) Next, set policy, then modify your crisis communications plan to reflect the policy.

3) Next, create a pre-written news release template that would be used to explain the rationale of your policy, should you be forced to use it in a crisis. For example, if you took your site dark, you would need to explain why to your audience. Likewise, if you allowed your site to remain up and be overrun by trolls, you might need to explain that to your audience via a statement. Remember, these statements could be posted to your website, e-mailed to employees and stakeholders, and shared with the media if necessary.

This decision is not an easy one. When I proposed that a POSSIBLE option MAY be to take a social media site dark, many PR people sited examples of companies that could never do that. Well great, I say. Yes, there are clearly premier brands that would face harsh criticism if they took their sites dark. Yet, I clearly sited brands in my discussion that I think could go dark without anyone but the trolls noticing, because the social media reach for some companies is so tiny that no one really knows they exist, nor do they care. Where does your brand fit into this equation?

Some might even say it is naive of some PR people or crisis communications consultants to say a social media site could or should never go dark, when in fact the final pulling of the plug could come at the order of the CEO. You can offer all of the wise counsel you want, but sometimes the boss ultimately has it his or her way, with complete disregard for what you think. All the more reason to have this discussion with your leadership team on a clear sunny day.

The decision making isn’t easy. Please schedule time to do it today. If you’d like me to sit in on the discussion, please give me a call at 985-624-9976.





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