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Tackling trolling: How trolling affects brands
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Tanvi Bosmia, Associate Account Director - Brand Experience, SoCheers shares some tips
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Tackling trolling: How trolling affects brands

Tanvi Bosmia, Associate Account Director - Brand Experience, SoCheers shares some tips
  • Social media trolls are not going to disappear from the internet anytime soon.
  • Trolls can heavily tarnish a brand’s image, also significantly impacting the brand’s marketing plans to promote any newly launched product or service.
  • Tanvi Bosmia, Associate Account Director - Brand Experience, SoCheers shares some tips on how to deal with social media trolls.
We’re living in an era where access to the internet is super easy. People love sharing their unfiltered opinion on social media considering it has always been a space for freedom of expression whether it’s a compliment for the brand or a complaint against them. Each individual is entitled to their opinion, no matter the impact it could have on the person or the brand on the receiving end. Brands today need to have a social media presence, period. It’s the easiest way to reach an exponentially large audience. And with all the positive aspects of this exposure, there also comes a negative side - the Trolls!

Though ‘boycott culture’ is as old as social media, unfortunately, 2021 can be labelled a year of outrage as many brands were made to pull off their ads. For instance, Tata’s jewellery brand, Tanishq, faced a considerable amount of backlash for its advertisement showcasing their new collection Ekatvam, featuring an interfaith babyshower. The brand got heavily trolled for promoting inter-faith marriages and “love jihad”, and soon saw a boycott trend as well. This led to a fall in stocks for Titan amid all the trolling and Tanishq pulling the video down, even though the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said that there was nothing indecent or vulgar or repulsive in the advertisement, to cause grave and widespread offense. Similarly, there were many campaigns like Manyavar’s “ Kanyamaan”, Dabur’s Karwachauth ad, Sabyasachi's " Mangalsutra Collection'', FabIndia's “ Jashn-e-Riwaaz” and so on and so forth, who faced major fallout for their progressive thoughts.

Unfortunately, such trolls can heavily tarnish a brand’s image, also significantly impacting the brand’s marketing plans to promote any newly launched product or service. This also leads to the brand’s message getting lost in all the chaos created by these trolls. This in turn leads to upsetting consumers who are actually there with genuine intent.

Here are some solutions for managing these troll situations better:

  1. Effective ORM Practices: Trolls don’t always easily stand out and it could be difficult for the brand to identify between an unhappy customer and a troll. Usually, trolls initiate a conversation which is controversial in nature whereas an unhappy customer will settle down once their complaint is addressed and resolved. The timing is super important and considering how fast social media platforms move, it’s essential for the brand to ensure that they respond within an hour’s time and give out a contact number/email ID to write to or simply ask them to “DM” (direct message) to take the conversation further. Any delay in response from the brand’s end can lead to speculation and stir up further agitation in the customer. Timely responses play a very important role and can go a long way in converting the unhappy customers into a part of their community which will also help in weakening the troll community.
1. Do(n’t) Engage With Trolls: Once the brand has identified a troll, indulging in a conversation with them could be tricky. Anything that goes out from the brand’s handle on social media is a direct reflection on the company and one wrong response could have an entirely irreversible and negative impact on the brand image. Hence, responding with factually correct information can help defeat these trolls. Having said that, it is also difficult to reason with trolls and getting into an argument with them could only fuel the fire further. So, in such cases, the ideal solution for the brand would be to report their messages/comments and also watch out for anyone else interacting with the troll to avoid it from escalating.

2. Effective Crisis Management: Setting up a crisis committee who can create a plan of action that consists of all the possible solutions for every type of message or comment can help the brand to be prepared for anything that comes next and tackle it accordingly. Social Listening is a really effective way to monitor and track any negative sentiment that pops up about the brand on the internet and makes it easier to take action in real time. There are various listening tools that can help to effectively tackle the trolls, avert any such crisis and avoid the brand image from getting hampered.

3. Making Happy Customers Your Spokesperson: Set clear guidelines to ensure that all communication that goes out from the brand handle is religiously/politically safe and doesn’t hurt anyone’s sentiments. Identify brand ambassadors from their followers who ardently follow everything that they post and can speak for the brand, building a positive sentiment about the company. Maintain full transparency and put out content that showcases the values the brand stands for and how valuable their customers and their feedback is for them. This, in the long run will help build a community that will also police these trolls and stand by the brand in crisis situations. For instance, Flipkart got trolled last year after one of its service executives told a customer that the company cannot deliver goods in Nagaland because it doesn’t “deliver outside India”. The response was probably a genuine error; however, it was too late by the time Flipkart realized and apologized since they had already been hit by the trolls.

To sum it up, social media trolls are not going to disappear from the internet anytime soon. The best way to avoid getting trolled is to be fully prepared and set up a process with the team that manages the brand handles on how they will deal with trolls or unhappy customers before any such situation arises. Once the process is in place, based on learnings, the brand can chart out a detailed plan of action on how they will address & tackle the various different situations that could arise in the future and also ensure the brand image is intact.