Responding to negative reviews is one thing – but what if it escalates, and you’re suddenly dealing with troll attacks and full-on hate speech? Being aware of this ugly side of the internet and its effects on your business can prepare you in the event it does come for you. For starters, you need an online reputation management strategy that factors in this reality and doesn’t treat it as an afterthought.
In 2017, 38 percent of adults in the United States said they saw trolling on social media every day, while 10 percent experienced the same on review sites (Statista, 2019). Data may tell you it comes with the territory. The digital space has effectively connected brands and consumers, but it’s also become a breeding ground for trolls and their brand of online bullying.
These rabble-rousers could be unhappy ex-employees, jealous competitors or anyone with a seeming grudge against your business. Knowing how to deal with internet trolls, then, may require going beyond responding to angry customers and negative reviews. This blog shows you the best way to deal with trolls and haters and what to avoid in your review response. We also explore the question of what is cancel culture to help you contextualize the issues related to trolling and hate speech.
Also, read on to find out more about:
• How to respond to trolls and haters
• Some examples of cancel culture
• How to protect or fix online reputation
Trolls, Haters and False Negative Reviews
Hate speech can come from dissatisfied customers, trolls and other sources. Rize Reviews’ Reputation Consultant Courtney Quigley said, “We have worked with clients who have experienced trolls, competitors and former disgruntled employees leaving false negative reviews.”
Of course, there are rants and criticisms from legitimate customers that rely on facts. But malicious reviews by trolls and haters tend to be unfounded.
You’ll know you’re dealing with trolls on the internet if their opinions involve:
• Attacking your integrity
• Causing chaos by disrupting a lively discourse in the comments sections
• Name-calling and insulting people in your company
• Twisting your marketing message
• Upsetting customers through rude, disruptive and inflammatory statements
What Is Cancel Culture?
Now, what is cancel culture, and how do trolls play a role in this phenomenon? Cancel culture is the act of withdrawing support from a brand or public figure who has said or done something objectionable. Think about how Oatly, a dairy alternative brand, got canceled in 2020. The reason? It partnered with an investment firm that partly owned a business involved in Amazon deforestation.
Online reputation management experts stress that, yes, cancel culture can be tricky. Once you’re in the hot seat, your every move can be scrutinized. And trolls bent on taking you down can make things worse with hate speech and misinformation.
Before you find yourself knee-deep in an online reputation management crisis, you should develop a game plan that will guide you on how to respond to haters.
How to Respond to Trolls and Haters
Mastering how to respond to internet trolls is an art. You want to be the brand that knows how to respond to haters tactfully, if not gracefully. It may be a struggle, but you must find the best way to deal with trolls.
Otherwise, you can face more problems in the future, including online reputation repair costs, if you let things go awry.
Take the opportunity to outline how to fix your reputation with the following steps – the dos:
1. Know Your Critics
We cannot overemphasize the importance of separating constructive criticism from hate speech. Fortunately, there are tactical ways to identify your attackers through what false reviews reveal.
Quigley said, “For this, we recommend responding to the review when it doesn’t match the name of a customer.” She added that crafting a response indicates to your wider audience that the review isn’t based on reality and may have been left by a competitor.
2. Be Level-Headed
With your brand image and online reputation on the line, you may be tempted to lash out at the offender. However, staying calm is a crucial factor in the playbook on how to respond to internet trolls. Responding promptly and correctly shows anyone reading the reviews how professional you are. It also avoids giving trolls the satisfaction of bringing you down to their level.
So divert your mind toward concerns on how prospects may read your response and make their decisions based on it. The best online reputation repair services do not tarnish your reputation further.
3. Address the Underlying Issue
Would you or your online reputation management agency rather not engage with trolls on the internet? Of course, there are times when remaining silent is the best way to deal with trolls. But if the backlash is based on a critical issue, you must be in online reputation repair mode and address the problem head-on.
The general public may believe the trolls and call you out, or distrust them and advocate for your brand. Either way, being accountable for overlooking (or tolerating) the matter not only helps you fix online reputation but also shows your commitment to doing better.
As for how to fix your reputation in case of a sensitive issue within your company, such as racism or sexual harassment? Online reputation repair experts say you can steer the conversation in your favor by firing the offender from your team.
4. Flag the Appropriate Reviews for Removal
According to Quigley, reviews can be removed – but only in some instances. “Review platforms want to stay transparent and keep all feedback, good and bad, available for readers unless it violates their terms,” she added.
So there are circumstances when review sites favor and guide you on how to deal with internet trolls. The guidelines on what can be removed depend on the platform. For example, on Google My Business, you can flag reviews that are spam or fake, obscene and inappropriate with regard to race, gender, sexuality, physical ability, etc.
In addition, you may experience more damage if you’re not careful about how to respond to internet trolls. So, while trying to fix online reputation, make sure to be mindful of the don’ts:
5. Do Not Be a Bully
It might be tempting for brands to bully their haters, but apart from its moral repercussions, the act reflects on your reputation. Those who have been trained on how to respond to internet trolls keep things neutral, avoiding the negative cycle in which trolls thrive.
However, it doesn’t mean you can’t confront haters with humor, wit or sass. Just take a page off Wendy’s How to Respond to Trolls playbook. In 2017, the fast-food chain’s response in a Twitter beef with a troll about fresh patties won the internet. It used short remarks or comebacks, which was on-brand, to clarify misinformation about its products.
Pro-tip: Do ensure this tactic is appropriate and effective for your brand. Consult an online reputation management company to avoid making a costly error. You can also rely on online review management software to monitor real-time data, which you can cite in your response.
6. Do Not Leave Your Reviews Unattended
Before they attack you, it’s imperative to learn how to deal with internet trolls. This is possible if you manage and monitor your reviews across the internet. With today’s technology, like online review management software, you or your online reputation management agency can check customer reviews in real-time. This way, you can spot a storm brewing and respond accordingly.
7. Do Not Delay Your Response
This means you’re ready for when the mob arrives – anticipating that this is a real possibility instead of denying or fearing it. You want to have a plan on how to respond to haters and trolls in place so you won’t be taken aback by their attacks.
Still, you may need external help to nail this part of your review response strategy. Fortunately, you can easily find a review response company that has experience in dealing with trolls on the internet. You’ll gain from partnering with its online reputation management experts in creating templates, choosing on-brand communication styles and even challenging old notions about ignoring online abuse.
Examples of Cancel Culture Affecting Brands
Aside from Wendy’s style of diffusing troll attacks with humor, here are other brands that will make you envy their online reputation repair services:
One of the best examples of cancel culture and its nuances was Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback-turned-celebrity activist. But it’s Nike’s move to sign him as an endorser that made the brand stronger than ever.
An online reputation management company could help its clients to take a stand – and a risk – like Nike as it works on aligning its strategy with each client’s brand goals.
The Honey Pot
Meanwhile, a small business selling plant-based products became the target of an online attack after appearing in a Target commercial trolls accused of being “racist.” Its reviews and ratings bore the brunt of the attack. But the more interesting thing was how its customers posted positive statements about the company, bringing the resulting two stars up to 4.9 in less than a day.
This speaks to one of the benefits of cultivating an online community around your brand, which your review response company should emphasize from the start.
Your Choice: Protect or Fix Online Reputation
Preparation is half the battle, and getting you ready has been this blog’s purpose in sharing how to respond to trolls and haters and how to fix your reputation.
We’ve also made it clear how important it is to develop a strategy, preferably with the help of a professional review response company. This allows you to leverage your partner’s expertise while avoiding costly mistakes.
There’s no need to go far because Rize Reviews, an online reputation management agency, is here to synthesize every detail into a strategy. We follow the best and most ethical practices in providing online reputation repair services. Our online reputation management software is a proprietary technology that keeps you abreast of any changes in your review process.
We also have the tools to turn things around. Quigley, our resident expert, said we’re connected with a company called Objection.co, which “uses artificial intelligence (AI) to find patterns like the same IP address leaving multiple reviews and can use that info to flag some reviews.”
Our online reputation management company has an exceptional command of the trends, tools and tactics related to troll response. Let us plan how to fix your reputation before the first sign of trolls appears in your reviews. Call 866.325.0303 or contact us via this form for more details.