By Brian McKay
You are all set up and ready to go. The website looks great, the product is on the market and doing well. Wait! Some guy just said something truly really bad on the comments section of the website! Should you counter and punch back? Maybe you should just get rid of those pesky comments all together. Everyone else loves the product. This guy is just an asshole threatening your business.
Don’t engage. Assholes and trolls are great for business and might be doing you a favor.
Your customers love you, the product or service is great and you run an honest business. Well guess what? There will always be an unreasonable person somewhere. In fact, Elon Musk personally cancelled a difficult customer's order of Tesla Model X. We don't recommed this, even though it's from our beloved Elon. The true benefit of unreasonable people is that they can make you look good.
If your website has a following and you have happy customers, they will do the work for you. That troll is increasing engagement in your product and reaffirming all that is good about your company as your champions (happy customers) rush in to put that person in their place.
Engagement and visibility are key. They can make products, just as they can make personalities. The rise of the Kardashian society shows that fame can be achieved just by actions (no matter what kind) that increase visibility. If anyone would have forecast in the 80’s that sex tapes on a thing called the Internet would make people rich in the future, there would have been a collective gasp followed by declarations of a crazy futurist on hallucinogens.
So this asshole is increasing visibility and engagement for you. It’s awesome! The rush of customers to your defense is actually selling your product or service for you. They are engaged and even reaffirming their own social ties to what you offer.
It gets even better if the troll keeps responding. The more unreasonable that guy is the better you look. Hope for a troll barrage.
Should you decide to counter yourself it appears that you are overly secure or quick to squash dissent. Any response at all should be one of graciousness for the feedback and not argumentative. It’s so tough though. This jackass is attacking all that you have worked for and the business you have built. Yes, the first response says to call the guy out and fight back, but that is not a strategy. It is a response, and a bad one at that. The goal is for the troll to look unreasonable, not you. The best response is probably none at all. Let your happy customers respond for you.
So what if the troll has a legitimate gripe but frames it in an unreasonable manner? Simple. If you erred, own it and promise to learn from it. Again, be gracious, thank the troll for their feedback, apologize and commit to correcting the issue immediately. No matter how many rocks that troll throws at you from under the bridge, you are showing yourself to be the good guy, legitimately concerned with customer satisfaction. Never, ever, ever respond in a tone that matches the troll. Ever. You and your business are above the fray.
We have all seen those online videos of a crazed customer yelling at a calm and helpful business associate. What responses did you see in the comments section of Facebook after you watched that video? There was probably disgust, disdain, revulsion and other strong emotions. Those comments also included praise for the composure of the associate and quite possibly praise for the business offerings as well. The completely unreasonable, just made reasonable look even better than before.
Every action has a reaction and sometimes the action of someone unreasonable creates a great reaction. Praise those trolls and the good works that come from their evil actions.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his MBA from Boise State University. Sometimes it takes all the strength he has to avoid engaging the trolls. You can do it Brian!