Hidden in the shadows, brutish and vulgar, the notion of the troll brings to mind fairytales of hungry, giant beasts haunting bridges and chowing down on goats. Yet, the term “troll” has taken on a new meaning in the digital age.

Internet trolls are commenters that seek out attention by posting inflammatory comments on social media platforms. This type of user can appear at any time and often lurks behind the safety of pseudonyms or anonymity to interrupt your community’s conversations with shocking remarks. Some of the classic signs of having a troll on your channel include the following:

  • The user appears to spam your channel by posting similar comments on several posts.
  • The user’s comments are intentionally offensive or negative in nature and meant only to attack the page or other commenters.
  • Despite the best efforts of the page content and/or other commenters to provide solutions or explanations, the user refuses to calm down and continues to post inflammatory remarks, often growing bolder as he or she gains the attention of others.

If you find yourself dealing with a troll, having a predetermined action plan is your best defense. Use the following four steps to help you get started in crafting a plan specific to your channel:

1. Be transparent.
When first launching a social channel, post rules of engagement and/or terms of use where users can access and view them at all times. These rules should define exactly what can and cannot be said on the page, while also explaining when comments will be removed. In the event that you need to delete a comment, it will be clear to users of your channel that you are enforcing the rules, helping to undermine accusations that you are just censoring unfavorable comments.

2. Monitor and moderate.
Once the rules are set, monitor users’ conversations to make sure they comply. If the rules are violated, publicly remind the offending user of the rules and explain why their behavior is unacceptable. Not only will this help you keep the conversations on your page compliant with applicable regulations, it will also make it easier to identify repeat offenders who could be potential trolls.

3. Avoid the urge to respond to every negative comment.
If you find your best efforts to provide a user with assistance or requested information are only met with more negative or snide comments, stop responding. The user may only want to rant or draw attention to him or herself. Either way, continuing the conversation will only escalate the situation.

4.Know when to ignore/hide/delete/block.
The goal of trolls is to draw attention to themselves. If they don’t receive a response to their inflammatory remarks, they will eventually become bored and move on to a different target.

One of the best ways to reduce the time a troll spends on your channel is to make sure their comments are not seen by other users. This may include pre-moderating comments or utilizing block lists and comment-hiding features to keep profanity and offensive phrases from being visible on your page. It may also include deleting posts that violate the rules of engagement. Special built-for-pharma tools like PharmaWall provide custom moderation options. If your channel does not provide you with the capability to pre-moderate, hide or delete comments, try ignoring the comment so as not to draw additional attention to it.

However, if a troll refuses to cease his or her attack on your channel and the user’s actions have become detrimental to the engagement on your page, most social platforms provide an option to block the user from participating with your account. If this step is taken, be sure to monitor your channels carefully for the next several days to make sure the troll doesn’t just return using a different account.

Final Thoughts
There is a difference between a troll and someone who is upset and in need of help. Take the time and energy to understand the true intention of the post and handle it accordingly.

The pharma industry faces extra scrutiny from everyone — the government, the media, the public — making it a likely target for trolls looking to get a rise from you and your followers. Therefore, it is best to have a plan in place that clearly defines the actions you can take when dealing with trolls — before they become a problem. Doing so will give you a better chance of defending your page and preserving the engagement and goodwill of the community you worked so hard to build.