I know we should be on social media, but what if they say something bad about us?” *Face Palm*. I hate to break it to ya nonprofit world, but people talk trash all day long on social media…even with nonprofits. Ask community managers at Planned Parenthood, LIVESTRONG and PETA. They will tell you tales of the depths of online humanity. So, what the hell are people so worked up about online? Are they truly passionate about making sure animals don’t have safe places to live or that people with cancer get help? No. It has nothing to do with you OR your cause. Let me introduce you to the bane of every online community manager’s existence. I give to thee the internet troll.
Some of trolls have actually made a career out of being snarky and hateful (ie: Perez Hilton) I guess technically he’s a blogger, but you get the idea. Most or our green scaly friends; however, are just out to put a bee in your online community’s proverbial bonnet. Why? A recent study, although not super scientific, has proven that internet trolls show behaviors associated with sadism. Yes. Sadism
Okay, so they are crazy. How do you have an intelligent conversation with a sadist? Well, it’s kind of like having a fashion show with a nudist – likely to end poorly for all involved. So, how do you manage a troll? Should the fear of these scrubby little beasts cowering in their mothers’ basements thinking up new ways to compare your thoughts and mission to a pile of fresh steaming poo? No. Here’s why.
For every troll in the universe there are scores amazing people that are interested in your mission and care about your cause. There are 1.7 billion people on Facebook and 650,000,000 on Twitter, so there are bound to be some bad apples in that giant bunch of humanity. Below are a few tips on how to prepare yourself for dealing with trolls.
- Create for and engage with your fans and followers on a deeply authentic level. Are you an animal welfare agency? Share success stories of the animals your donors have protected from inevitable slaughter. Are you a health organization? Ask your community what questions they have about navigating the new healthcare law. Offer them individual support and advice right there on the page. Are you a women’s health organization that is offering a new program to help screen for cervical cancer for low or no cost to the patient? Share that awesome news and ask your fans to share it with their networks.
- Notice above that all three examples above could bring out the haters. Own that fact. Embrace it. The last thing you want to do is to hide from controversy just because scaly trolls under a bridge want to pile your page with garbage. You must truly believe in your mission to be a good community manager. That passion must be there. If it is not- get out. Go sell software or something. You have to feel a connection with those you serve.
- Get your facts straight and your ducks in a row. Every single time I ever posted about a smoke-free initiative (a troll-bait topic if I’ve EVER seen one) I got the following numbers: % of Americans that smoked vs. nonsmokers, listing of toxic ingredients in tobacco smoke, stories of people that have lost loved ones to lung cancer or mesothelioma (a disease that is frequently associated with exposure to dangerous chemicals in the workplace) and anything that would show impact on the body 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year after smoking to convey that there is hope.
- Know what you’re talking about, be THE expert – or at least have the expert an email or a phone call away. Now what? Just wait. The trolls will come. They will use phrases like “slippery slope” and “nanny state” and even things that are darn right offensive to the very thing you deeply care about. They may even compare you to random animals with tiny brains and accuse you of being a puppet for whatever party is currently in need of a cause in which to rally around. Repeat after me “THIS IS NOT PERSONAL”.
- Let me reiterate #4. It is NOT personal. They aren’t attacking you. They are certifiably nuts. Picture their mother’s basement. Their pasty inability to absorb sunshine. You know your stuff, you are passionate about the cause, you have built a great community- you essentially have “The Power of Grayskull”. THAT is when the magic can truly happen online.
More to come on specific tactics to slay trolls soon, so stay tuned. Parting words that must be reiterated again. Online community management is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for hot heads and it is always necessary to have a venting partner in your organization to bring you back down to reality and remember big picture. I was grateful to have many of those at my tenure at the Foundation and in my previous life as a case manager for a child support enforcement agency. When you are in the online trenches and are pure of heart and just want to help it will shine through. At the end of the day, that’s all that truly matters.