What is an Internet Troll and How Can One Ruin Your Business?

What is an Internet Troll and How Can One Ruin Your Business?

What is an internet troll and how can one ruin your business? Online trolling is bad for business. An individual posting negative, defamatory or abusive comments about you or your brand can be damaging to your small business venture, sometimes irreversibly.

Take a look at what exactly an internet troll is, why someone might take to trolling a small business, and the damage trolls can cause.

What is an Internet Troll?

An internet troll refers to someone who deliberately writes and posts offensive and provocative content online with the intention of angering, upsetting or damaging the reputation of the subject of the comments.

If you own a business, an internet troll posting negative comments and remarks about you or your business could have an adverse impact on your business’s reputation.

A study published by the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences in 2014, found that around five percent of online users who self-identified as trolls had high scores of personality disorders, such as psychopathy, sadism, narcissism and Machiavellianism.

The very nature of search engine rankings and keywords can make trolling especially damaging to a company. This is due to the fact internet trolls tend to use social media, forums and blog sites to publish their defamatory content.

Google ranks such platforms highly and consequently, any trolling content that contains your company’s name is likely to be found when someone does an online search of your business.

One high profile case of an internet troll targeting a business owner, involved UK businessman Daniel Hegglin being the victim of ongoing trolling abuse. Hegglin became aware of the attacks in 2011. He discovered 3,600 websites that contained abusive and untrue material about him.

Instead of following the usual course of action reporting the websites to Google to have them removed from its search results, Hegglin took out an injunction against Google. The businessman appealed to the High Court to ensure the defamatory content did not appear in search results for his name. The case may have since been settled but the damage to Hegglin’s reputation had already been done.

What is an Internet Troll and How Can One Ruin Your Business?

Why Would Somebody Troll a Small Business?

There are many reasons a person may choose to troll a small business. A troll may be a past employee who wants to take out revenge on their former employer. He or she might be a competitor, looking to damage your reputation in order to get ahead in the market.

A troll could be an upset customer or a resentful supplier with qualms over payment or other issues.

Internet trolling of small businesses ranges from customers placing negative reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, to posting unfounded abuse on social media. For small business owners, having negative comments about their businesses on review sites can have the potential to destroy their business.

One survey about bad reviews and online trolling found that 75 percent of business owners admitted online reviews were important or very important to their financial well-being and reputation; one in six claimed unfair negative posts could destroy their business completely.

It pays to be vigilant about mentions of your business online. Report damaging and defamatory website posts to search engines. Report social media abuses to the management of the site where it appears.. You’ll also want to report reviews of your business you believe to be invalid to the review site where they have been posted.

What is an Internet Troll and How Can One Ruin Your Business?

Protecting Your Small Business from Internet Trolls

In today’s digital landscape, safeguarding your small business from internet trolls is paramount. These trolls deliberately post offensive and damaging content online, posing a significant threat to your brand’s reputation. Here’s how to shield your business from the perils of online trolling:

  • Monitor Online Mentions: Stay vigilant by regularly monitoring online mentions of your business. Set up Google Alerts or use social media listening tools to track conversations and comments related to your brand.
  • Engage with Legitimate Concerns: Address genuine customer concerns and feedback promptly and professionally. Show your commitment to resolving issues, which can deter trolls from exploiting any discontent.
  • Moderate Your Online Platforms: Implement moderation on your website, social media accounts, and forums to filter out offensive and irrelevant comments. This proactive approach helps maintain a positive online environment.
  • Educate Your Team: Train your employees on recognizing and handling online trolls. Ensure they know the appropriate steps to take when encountering abusive or defamatory content.
  • Legal Action When Necessary: If trolling escalates to a damaging level, consider taking legal action. Consult with an attorney experienced in online defamation to explore your options for protecting your business’s reputation.
  • Encourage Positive Reviews: Actively encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on reputable review platforms. A strong base of positive reviews can offset the impact of occasional negative comments.
  • Maintain Professionalism: In your online interactions, maintain professionalism and refrain from engaging in confrontations with trolls. Respond calmly and factually, focusing on the facts rather than emotions.
  • Secure Your Online Profiles: Protect your online profiles and social media accounts with strong passwords and two-factor authentication. Minimize the risk of unauthorized access and potential trolling.
  • Report Abusive Content: Promptly report abusive and defamatory content to the respective platform administrators, whether it’s a social media site, forum, or review platform.
  • Educate Your Audience: Share information with your audience about online trolling and its potential consequences. Encourage responsible online behavior among your customers and followers.
  • Stay Informed About Legal Rights: Familiarize yourself with the legal rights and options available to combat online trolling in your jurisdiction. Laws and regulations may vary, so consult with legal experts if needed.
  • Build a Positive Online Community: Foster a positive online community around your brand. Encourage constructive discussions and engagement, making it less appealing for trolls to disrupt the atmosphere.
Monitor Online MentionsRegularly track online mentions of your business using Google Alerts and social media listening tools.
Engage with Legitimate ConcernsAddress genuine customer concerns and feedback professionally to deter trolls from exploiting discontent.
Moderate Your Online PlatformsImplement moderation on your online platforms to filter out offensive comments and maintain a positive environment.
Educate Your TeamTrain your employees to recognize and handle online trolls, ensuring they respond appropriately.
Legal Action When NecessaryConsult with an attorney experienced in online defamation if trolling escalates to a damaging level.
Encourage Positive ReviewsActively seek positive reviews from satisfied customers to offset occasional negative comments.
Maintain ProfessionalismRespond calmly and factually to trolls, avoiding confrontations and focusing on the facts.
Secure Your Online ProfilesProtect your online profiles with strong passwords and two-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access.
Report Abusive ContentPromptly report abusive content to platform administrators for removal.
Educate Your AudienceShare information about online trolling and encourage responsible online behavior among your audience.
Stay Informed About Legal RightsFamiliarize yourself with legal rights and options to combat trolling, consulting legal experts as needed.
Build a Positive Online CommunityFoster a positive online community around your brand to discourage trolls from disrupting the atmosphere.

What is an Internet Troll and How Can One Ruin Your Business?

Turning Trolling Challenges into Opportunities

While internet trolling can be detrimental to small businesses, savvy entrepreneurs can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and resilience. Here’s how you can harness the power of adversity:

  • Enhance Your Online Reputation Management: Use trolling incidents as a catalyst to improve your online reputation management strategy. Invest in tools and practices that help you monitor, respond to, and mitigate negative content effectively.
  • Strengthen Customer Relationships: Engage with your loyal customers to counteract the impact of trolling. Encourage them to share positive experiences and reviews, creating a loyal customer army that defends your brand against online attacks.
  • Content Quality and Authenticity: Focus on producing high-quality, authentic content that resonates with your target audience. Genuine content builds trust and loyalty, making it harder for trolls to undermine your brand.
  • Transparency and Openness: Embrace transparency in your business operations. When you’re open about challenges and willing to address them publicly, it can disarm trolls and demonstrate your commitment to improvement.
  • Community Building: Cultivate a strong online community around your brand. Encourage discussions, feedback, and support among your customers and followers. A united community can swiftly counter negative trolling efforts.
  • Positive Storytelling: Share success stories, testimonials, and positive narratives about your business. Positive storytelling not only boosts your brand but also provides content that resonates with your audience.
  • Legal Safeguards: Consider consulting with legal experts to develop comprehensive terms of use and content policies for your online platforms. These safeguards can deter trolls and provide a basis for legal action when necessary.
  • Adaptation and Innovation: Stay agile and be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances. Trolling challenges can prompt innovation in your marketing and customer engagement strategies.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Use data analytics to gain insights into the impact of trolling on your business. Data can guide your decision-making process and help you identify areas for improvement.
  • Collaboration and Networking: Connect with fellow entrepreneurs and businesses facing similar trolling challenges. Collaborative efforts can provide support and innovative solutions to combat online abuse.
  • Public Relations Management: Invest in public relations efforts to manage your brand’s image effectively. Skilled PR professionals can navigate crises and maintain a positive public perception.
  • Educate Your Audience: Educate your audience about the prevalence and risks of online trolling. By raising awareness, you empower your customers to recognize and resist trolling attempts.
Enhance Your Online Reputation ManagementInvest in tools and practices to monitor, respond to, and mitigate negative content effectively.
Strengthen Customer RelationshipsEncourage loyal customers to share positive experiences and reviews, creating a loyal customer army.
Content Quality and AuthenticityFocus on producing high-quality, authentic content that builds trust and loyalty.
Transparency and OpennessEmbrace transparency in your business operations, addressing challenges openly.
Community BuildingCultivate a strong online community to counter negative trolling efforts.
Positive StorytellingShare success stories and positive narratives about your business.
Legal SafeguardsDevelop comprehensive terms of use and content policies for online platforms.
Adaptation and InnovationStay agile and innovate in marketing and customer engagement strategies.
Data-Driven InsightsUse data analytics to gain insights into the impact of trolling and areas for improvement.
Collaboration and NetworkingConnect with businesses facing similar challenges for collaborative solutions.
Public Relations ManagementInvest in skilled PR professionals to navigate crises and maintain a positive image.
Educate Your AudienceRaise awareness about online trolling risks, empowering customers to resist trolling attempts.

Legal Options for Dealing with Trolls

Understanding your legal options is crucial when dealing with internet trolls who target your business. In cases where trolls cross the line into harassment or defamation, it’s important to know that legal recourse may be available.

Consulting with an attorney specializing in internet law can provide you with strategies to address severe trolling cases. Legal actions, such as cease and desist letters or lawsuits for defamation, can sometimes be necessary to protect your business’s reputation and deter future attacks.

Implementing Advanced Digital Security Measures

Protecting your online platforms from trolls involves more than just content moderation; it requires advanced digital security measures. Implementing robust security protocols to safeguard your website, social media accounts, and online forums against unauthorized access is essential.

This includes regular security audits, using secure passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and educating your team on cybersecurity best practices. By strengthening your digital defenses, you can minimize the risk of trolling activities that aim to disrupt your business operations.

Fostering Positive Customer Relations and Advocacy

One effective strategy to mitigate the impact of internet trolls is by fostering positive customer relations and building a strong base of advocates for your brand. Encourage satisfied customers to share their positive experiences and reviews online.

Creating an ambassador program or incentivizing referrals can also turn your loyal customers into vocal supporters who help counteract the negative narratives spread by trolls.

By cultivating a community of brand advocates, you can reinforce your business’s positive image and drown out the noise created by trolls.

Leveraging Public Relations and Media Strategies

In situations where trolling has attracted public attention or caused significant reputation damage, leveraging public relations and media strategies can be beneficial. Working with a PR firm to manage your business’s image and communicate effectively with the public can help restore trust.

Crafting well-thought-out press releases, engaging in community outreach, and participating in positive publicity opportunities can shift the narrative in your favor. Public relations efforts can also highlight your business’s strengths and contributions, further diminishing the impact of trolling.

Continuous Education on Digital Etiquette and Online Behavior

Educating yourself, your team, and your audience about digital etiquette and responsible online behavior is an ongoing process that can help prevent trolling. Hosting workshops, sharing resources, and promoting discussions about the importance of respectful online interactions can foster a healthier digital environment for your business.

Encouraging your community to report trolling activities and support one another can also create a united front against trolls. Continuous education on these topics not only helps in dealing with trolls but also contributes to a more positive online culture overall.

Developing a Crisis Management Plan

Having a crisis management plan in place is essential for any business operating online. This plan should outline specific steps to be taken in response to severe trolling incidents that threaten your business’s reputation.

It should include protocols for internal communication, guidelines for public responses, strategies for legal action, and plans for reputation recovery.

Being prepared with a crisis management plan ensures that your business can respond swiftly and effectively to mitigate the impact of trolling and safeguard your brand’s integrity.

What is an Internet Troll and How Can One Ruin Your Business?

What is an Internet Troll and How Can One Ruin Your Business? Conclusion

In today’s digital age, where online presence is paramount for small businesses, the menace of internet trolling looms as a potential threat to reputation and success. As we’ve explored, internet trolls can inflict damage through negative comments, false reviews, and defamatory content.

However, by understanding the motivations behind trolling and implementing proactive measures, small business owners can effectively combat these challenges.

Vigilance, authenticity, and community building stand as pillars in the defense against trolling. Entrepreneurs must nurture a strong online community, foster transparent communication, and prioritize the quality and authenticity of their content.

Moreover, legal safeguards and public relations management can offer essential protection.

While internet trolling may persist as an ongoing challenge, the lessons learned from countering these online threats can ultimately serve as catalysts for growth and resilience. By turning adversity into opportunity, small businesses can emerge stronger, more adaptable, and better equipped to thrive in the digital landscape.

Remember that the power to shape your online reputation is firmly in your hands, and with the right strategies, you can navigate the turbulent waters of the internet with confidence and resilience.

Trolling Photo via Shutterstock

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Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a staff writer for Small Business Trends based in the United Kingdom. Since 2006, Gabrielle has been writing articles, blogs and news pieces for a diverse range of publications and sites. You can read "Gabrielle’s blog here.".

One Reaction
  1. There is a company out there that thinks people are going to have to pay more if they have to pickup there order. WHAT? Yes instead of just driving to the store a purchasing what I wish I should order online and pickup days later for same price but tell me if I order online I save by waiting and pu later. WHAT? I am confused too. You know who this is but you don’t no who decided to sell the idea. Why would someone order on line to pickup when delivery is free and the store pays for the gas insurance car or truck manpower and sometime even assembly which is worth 50.00 alone. WHAT?

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