#CmgrChat – 2/22 – Handling Trolls, Tales From Under the Bridge

Every community deals with this at one point or another.  Whether one of your regular members starts acting out, or someone new just comes in to start messing stuff up, you’re going to have the occasional rabble rouser.   The word Troll has come out of the internet over the years as a person who acts inappropriately in online spaces.   College Humor even created a fun little video explaining what an internet troll really is.  But how do we deal with them?

In this week’s #CmgrChat we saw 617 tweets discussing trolling experiences.  What did we really take away?   Trolls are people first.  The overall method is to listen, but don’t feed, and apply the right methods.   Whatever you do, don’t let someone get under your skin.  But don’t take my word for it — read what every one else had to say.

Q1. What’s the difference between a troll and a person with quite a few legitimate concerns?

QuirkyBean A troll is doing it for enjoyment?
MattHirschfelt Trolls don’t care about the response they receive. They are only concerned with their message
Historian A troll uses personal attacks or unreasonable positions designed to cause drama rather than reasoned arguments.
SueOnTheWeb A troll is some who deliberately stirs up other members to get a reaction. It’s done solely for the trolls entertainment.
TMurrayOnline I’d say intent & sometimes tone. Trolls seek to discredit while concerned community members want to alert you to chg something
evanhamilton It can be difficult to distinguish, but trolling is causing trouble for trouble’s sake, vs being an upset but legit user.
KellyLux The difference is in the response. Trolls won’t work with you. People with legitimate concerns will.
SusanBCole Trolls aren’t in it to learn anything. They just want to vent frustration, not find resolution
MackCollier Trolls just want attention, this is where the saying ‘don’t feed the troll’ comes from 😉

Q2. Do you have a defined set of procedures for dealing with trolls or are they on a case-by-case basis?

MaddieRuud The best way to deal with #trolls is to take the convo private. Taking away their audience renders them impotent
LovelyLu Best way to combat a troll is by humor. If that doesn’t work, then you have to ignore them.
hugeheadca I have a process/procedures but those steps are dictated by trolls reactions – most of the time trolls are predictable tho
Hoovers To deal with trolls, create and publish a blog commenting policy.
_Danicia_ Sometimes people just need to be heard. Unfortunately, they’re so used to /not/ being heard, they act out. So..start listening

Q3. Can a troll ever become an accepted member of the community? Is there such a thing as troll rehab?

MattHirschfelt  Many trolls can become advocates if you refocus their energy.
Historian AA converted troll can sometimes be one of your best champions.
MackCollier I think trolls can be taught ‘error of their ways’ & become valuable members. Question is, do you have time for that?
hugeheadca  todays troll can be tommorow’s community builder if you can involve them. Don’t cowtow to them tho.
SueOnTheWeb Think it depends on level of troll. Some actually don’t realize they are coming across as trolls, others do it on purpose.
MaddieRuud  Sometimes, validating a #troll and redirecting energy towards improving the site works
SueOnTheWeb Some of our funniest members started out as trolls & now are life and soul of cmty. Others I banned before the paint dried
JPedde You ever meet a reformed troll in person? All of that drama just falls away. Importance of offline communication.
SunnyinSyracuse  I can see it in the #CMGRdictionary now: Career Trolls (def.)- Those with more time than sense.

Q4. What’s the most important piece of advice you can give for dealing with trolls?

Historian Privately contact them to ask them to stop and to see how you can help them. Ask them what’s up.
DLactaoen Be professional, don’t lose your cool, bring the hammer down if needed.
MaddieRuud The most important #advice for dealing with#trolls: Don’t take it personal(ly). If you get angry, they win
mbhahn: Be patient and think before you act
bobstanke BEST ADVICE for dealing with community trolls: Practice the 3 P’s… Patience, Persistence, and Politeness.
KellyLux Advice for Troll Chasers: Check their bio before engaging…see if you can get a clue where they’re coming from
TheMiddle Don’t have a pre-determined stereotype of trolls. Approach each encounter as if it were your first.
_Danicia_ First stop calling them names, like trolls. They are people who may or may not be intentionally trolling. Listen first


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About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.


People tend to misunderstand trolling, and it seems that they still do, as trolling can encompass a lot of different behavioural types. A few of the answers here show this as you notice that different people have a different picture in their head of the average "troll".


I think one thing that many CMs don't realise due to lack of experience of dealing with disruptive individuals online, outside of their community, is that there could be many reasons for why they've chosen to be a nuisance to you.


They may have a genuine grievance but are not eloquent enough to voice that - It's your job to find out what that is. They may not be aware that their actions are unacceptable as a lot of people believe that on the internet there is free speech and such. They may be part of an organised collective designed to disrupt you for fun, from a competitor, or simply because you're giving them attention. Sometimes they just want attention. Identifying their aim accurately is imperative to say the least.


Q1. What’s the difference between a troll and a person with quite a few legitimate concerns?

A troll will constantly find fault with your reasoning, no matter how sound, even to the point where you echo their concern. They aim to get you to respond in a way they choose or want.


Those with concerns may be highly charged, vocal, and emotional but they can be placated by reason if you are able to legitimately help them. There are exceptions to the rule but for the most part this is true.


Q2. Do you have a defined set of procedures for dealing with trolls or are they on a case-by-case basis?

Set guidelines - As you cannot handle everything and those unfamiliar with trolling (usually customer service associates) need a basic route to follow to stop things from spiralling out of control. Any that cannot be dealt with after following these initial guidelines then need to be evaluated and given more time. I tend to find with my set guidelines 95% of people who we flag as potential problems turn out to be easily dealt with.Q3. Can a troll ever become an accepted member of the community? Is there such a thing as troll rehab?I agree with most of what has been said here. A troll can easily become one of your strongest advocates if you redirect them and give them the opportunity to.


Q4. What’s the most important piece of advice you can give for dealing with trolls?

Never take what they say personally - If you cannot handle the individual, and are unable to deal with them on a 1-1 format, then ask a colleague to step in. If that option is not available to you just remember they are simply trying to illicit an emotional response and do not know you personally. Do not give in to them.


Anyway - Just found the site and think it's an excellent forum for information. Some of it from other CMs is hit and miss but some excellent  info on tools, tips, and other resources.