Social Media Trolls, Flakes and Other Derelicts

By Tom Ogg

I so well remember my first foray into a discussion group. I accessed the Internet with a 300-baud modem and found Usenet’s myriad of groups by topic. It was unbelievable to me that I could chat with people all over the world about so many different topics. Of course in those early days of social conversations no one really knew how to conduct one’s self, or what constituted acceptable behavior and what was off the charts. That started my never ending relationship with global communication. I so remember Sandy Elson’s “The Biz” which was the very first travel industry specific discussion forum in CompuServe. Sandy was a pioneer and opened the gateway for travel agents in so many ways.

Today and we operate the TravelProfessionalCommunity.com social community. While the vast majority of agents behave extremely well, there are still the few that think they are much smarter than everyone else and take great pleasure in belittling new agents or those with a different opinion than theirs. I have no tolerance for such closed minds and know the harm this type of individual can do to an otherwise excellent discussion group. We suspend them as soon as they expose themselves for what they are.

Recently I have been working on Facebook pages for both HomeBasedTravelAgent.com and TravelProfessionalAssociation.com. Since there is no way to vet who has access to the posts made on the pages, there is a plethora of folks showing up to advertise their products and services in what is supposed to be a response to post, trolls wanting nothing more than to be controversial and complete flakes that just want to cause trouble. I had one troll that had been suspended from the community for her toxic posts show up and do her best to insult the page and me personally. While infuriating, decades of experience kept me on course. So I thought I would share some insight into how to manage the comments on your social media business pages, as everyone is sure to be faced with-situations that require action.

Have a Social Media Strategy: Long before you start your business’s social media effort you should have a well thought out strategy to define your objectives. Define standards for your effort and stick to them. As an example, you want your Facebook page to be professional and positive and offer readers insight into your business, then you should not allow posts to stand that do not add to this result. This makes it quite easy to know what to do when a troll attacks you or your business.

Never Respond to Insults with Insults: When the inevitable happens and someone posts a controversial attack on you or your business and all you want to do is attack the poster back, stop and review your social media strategy. If this is not consistent with it, then you should immediately eliminate the post, and ban the poster from your page. When these things happen no one wants to read it and if you participate in the conversation by trying to correct the poster, you will be dragged down to the same level as the troll that started the thread. Always maintain the level of professionalism that your strategy demands.

Never Allow Posters to Advertise on Your Page: Only the most naive visitor doesn’t see advertisements feigned as a comment or post for what they are. They cheapen your site and they leave one with the impression that the content on your site is not moderated at all. Of course, this will lessen the impact of your work on the site and potentially damage the results that you are hoping for. Worse than comments which are nothing more than ads are affiliate links posted as comments. You can always tell affiliate links because they have the affiliate ID information behind the URL. These ads not only cheapen your message, but they act as an exit point from your page to another page where the reader will associate you as the resource that got them there. And, if you haven’t seen some of the affiliate presentations, they can be downright insulting to readers with any intelligence whatsoever. Always immediately remove any advertisements on your pages.

Have a Plan For the Worse Case Scenario: As sad as it seems, vindictive trolls can create havoc on your social media efforts by mustering a concerted effort to discredit you or your company. If this happens you need to have a well thought out tactic for dealing with it. Sometimes the best solution is to simply shut your social media efforts down and restart in a different environment. As dramatic as it sounds, it beats getting engaged in an environment that may hurt your efforts well into the future. Everyone sees troll attacks for what they are, but it is how you respond to them that defines your posture.

Here are also some tips on how to avoid making mistakes while building your social media presence for your business.

Do Not Ask Your Friends to “Like” Your Business Page: Even though the first thing Facebook does is ask you to invite your friends to “Like” your new business page; don’t do it! Remember that your friends on your personal page are just that, friends. By inviting them to “Like” your business page you run the risk of violating that friendship.

Don’t Advertise on Others Pages: I was downright shocked to see a reputable host agency that was advertising their program on someone Else’s YouTube video that dealt with starting a home based travel agency. Even the MLMs that populate social media trying to get unsuspecting people to sign up were not as blatant as the host agency. I wonder if they really thought someone would respond to a obvious ad in a social environment that someone else created when all it really did was damage their image.

Use Social Media Advertising Tools to Expand Your Impact: If you want to grow your “Likes” use Facebook’s tools for that purpose. If you want more people to see your posts, use Facebook’s “Boost” tool to make it happen. All social media platforms have tools that can be very effective at advertising your products and services and this is the way to grow your social media engagement.