When you build a brand community, you attract attention from more than just your fans. The powerful voice and extended reach that consumers gain on social platforms can amplify both brand advocacy and brand criticism—warranted and unwarranted.
"How-to" tips on managing community trolls are relatively prevalent, but many of the espoused tactics backfire in real-world settings because they're too broad and not deep enough. They're materially tips for dealing with negative comments and sentiment, but the don't really help with understanding and managing trolls as people.
Understanding causation—the underlying motivation of different troll types—and the impact trolls seek to have on other people, is essential to understanding how to best proceed.
I'm going to discuss three primary troll types: scorned fans, soapboxers, and scandalmongers. And to ground the discussion in the real world, I'll use some recent activity from Chobani and Porsche as examples of do's and don'ts of effective troll management.
One consistent theme we'll emphasize is the value of brand defenders, which are advocates who can often directly negate trolls in ways that the brand itself cannot. Such authentic advocates can't be pulled out of thin air, however; they need to be recognized and cultivated beforehand.
Trolls Abound: Lessons From the Real World
In a negative spiral of publicity, category leader Chobani Yogurt was facing increased backlash regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the feed for the dairy cattle that provided milk for the company's yogurt. That backlash was compounded by its breakup with Whole Foods that was subsequently attributed to the negative GMO buzz.
The breakup then not only emboldened Chobani's critics but also drove negative attention to the brand from customers, simultaneously positioning the Chobani social communities as friendly camping grounds for GMO protesters.