Trolls – How to Banish the Bullies and Protect Your Brand

It’s not enough that veterinary staff are regularly abused and harassed in practice. There is a long line of bullies who don’t have enough backbone to challenge you to your face, instead preferring to hide behind a keyboard and post vitriolic comments anonymously. They want to provoke you into an argument—not solve a problem.

Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to protect your team and your brand from unfounded accusations and online threats.

Who Are Trolls?

Disgruntled clients are more likely to leave a poor review or contact the clinic directly to voice their grievances. It’s highly likely that your online trolls are not people you know. They may not even live in your vicinity or own a pet.

Trolls have something lacking within themselves. Trolling helps them to fill a void and enables them to feel more powerful and in control. They don’t have a logical argument or a genuine complaint about your service – they just want to make you upset. Nobody can win, so it’s pointless to keep arguing with them.

How to Stop Trolls

So what can you do to protect your team and your brand from nasty comments and inflammatory online rants?

  • Raise the drawbridge so that the trolls can’t cross into your territory. Establish guidelines and rules for social media etiquette on your page and when they are breached, point them back to the policy.
  • Take the high road. Be open and transparent about addressing valid complaints. Other followers will be able to see that you handled it professionally. If the discussion continues, invite them to discuss it further with you offline.
  • Don’t be afraid to correct mistakes if the commenter is genuine. A gentle explanation and a ‘thank you for your feedback’ will show that you are confident with your facts and expertise, and willing to assert yourself.
  • If the comment is an obvious attempt at trolling for no good reason, delete the comment and ban the offender from your page. I have read some advice to the contrary, stating that by leaving the comments untouched you are allowing other fans to jump to your defence. However, through my own experience, I believe that there is nothing to be gained by leaving disparaging comments and unfounded criticism in place for everybody to see. Your business page is YOUR space, and you have a right to maintain a safe and happy place for everybody to visit. 
  • Monitor your social media pages 7 days a week to ensure that trolls are dealt with promptly before they can do too much damage. If you need help with this, please contact me.

Comments that challenge our perceptions and offer alternative points of view can be healthy for our client relationships and for our social media engagement. However there is a big difference between a pet owner with a genuine question, and a troll who just wants to visit and leave a trail of destruction behind them. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground and set a benchmark for acceptable behaviour on your page.