Troll. The very word sends shivers up many who use social media and online tools and applications.
Sometimes the mental imagery that the word Troll produces is great:
Sometimes, not so great:
But, in all seriousness, trolling is a growing problem online and especially in social media spaces. It clogs up our email boxes, confuses the follower/following counts and throws monkey wrenches into people actively building engaged online communities.
I have created my own types based on behavior I have seen:
1. The "Trolling to get attention" type: This one is mostly harmless. Usually looks to build off someone's online sheen and tries to jump in on conversations without meaning harm, and usually just attempting to increase their social media mojo.
2. The "Trolling to be malicious" type: This one usually has a blog and will go out and try to identify "victims" of online shakedowns that work a little like this: They write bad, mean spirited blog about you, your brand, your company, your presence etc. Then, they sit back and wait for all the anticipated traffic on their blog from you and all your supporters. They relish writing nasty things, even if not true. They relish trying to take down brands and people.
3. The "Trolling to be dangerous" type: This one is dangerous. This one will attempt access to your social network followers and friends, then start contacting them with spam, or mal-ware ridden links and urls. Worse, even this category also includes the "STALKERS" - those using the new technologies for nothing but bad, robbery, rape, murder, extortion, etc. This one will frequently site another one of your social media pals as reason for them to be accepted by you.
What can each of us do?
1. Start with knowing who your follower base is, and what makes them tick. If you are looking at your Facebook profile, or Linkedin profile or Twitter profile and see people you don't really know; ask yourself this: Are these people really friends? Should I be trusting my secrets to these people I have never met? Do not be afraid to not accept new friend invitations. Do not be afraid to block those who are unwanted or report spam when it happens. The troll will simply move on to an easier target.
2. Take Brand Management to a personal level.
What does this mean? It means it is up to you to protect your name, your contacts and your positioning in social media. Know what is being said and when about you and by whom. Use Twitter search, Google alerts, Bing social media updates and also look into tools such as http://www.metamend.com/reputation-management-protection/ or free ones like:
Take this in your own hands. Be active. Don't be afraid to correct the record through blogs, twitter facebook, linkedin: remember these tools flow to Google and Bing searches so it can be relatively easy to correct wrong and misleading statements through the maleability of the SEO process.
3. Build your networks with people you trust. This may seem obvious, but in the rush to create large following counts and "impressive social media stats" many forget how critical the engaged, well maintained network is to each of us out there on social media. As Bill Grundfest so famously put it at the 2010 Gov20LA event in Los Angeles: "Congratulations. You are all now in show biz." The world is a big stage, enhanced all the more so by the rapidity and velocity of information, true or false, flowing through social networks. The more people you have in your network based on a relationship of trust, the more likely you get early warning signs that a Troll has hijacked your brand name online. An added benefit is that you can create a bunch of viral supporters who can comment on blogs and set the record straight.
4. Use some common sense. Duh. This one seems obvious too. But really, common sense plays a critical and major role in how Trolls can either penetrate into your social network or not. Common Sense is your second most powerful weapon in defending your brand against trolling.
5. Have some courage. Trolls are out to do harm. But like most bullies- tend to retract when challenged correctly. This is not to say go start an online firefight. Sometimes simply ignoring them is best because it hits their egos hard. But - when you reveal trolls for what they are and use their words and actions against them - it becomes easier and easier to make brand protection a daily part of your troll patrol. Screen Shots become your best friend. So do DNS listings and emails. Google and Bing everything. Use Snopes to debase false statements and find spammers/trolls.
Most importantly, you have to be your own Troll Patrol. No one else will do it for you. Integrate brand management into your personal presence online. You are in show business now, after all.