“You’re dealership is complete crap, your all lyars and theeves.”

This is something we all deal with on social media. It affects our professional and personal online lives: INTERNET TROLLS.

Internet Trolls are the absolute worst to encounter on social media. If you represent a business, you have to be able to handle them. It takes precious time to build up your personal and professional reputation. It can be dismantled in a few moments of bad judgment when a troll attacks.  There have been incidents where businesses were forced to shut their doors after a poop-storm erupted from a bad call on social media. Don’t negotiate with terrorists and for the love of Zuckerburg please don’t engage with a Facebook troll.

Oh no, you didn’t just insult my mother! Dorothy Mantooth is a SAINT! Now I have to kick your ass, virtually, of course.

What is an internet troll? It’s a person who posts provocative messages on your Facebook page (personal or business) with the sole intention of causing the most amount of disruption. They will also try to force arguments. They are easily recognizable thanks to tell-tale indicators like improper grammar, spelling, and a general lack of common sense or decency. So, how do you deal with them? Here are three things that work great for me. These tips are primarily business related but you can tweak them for personal use.

First (and most important), you have to figure out if someone is really a troll or just an angry customer. That’s pretty hard to determine moments after reading what he or she wrote. Offer an email address and take the conversation immediately off the page. Your mailbox will determine if that’s an unhappy customer or a plain old troll. If they drop a direct message, it’s a good sign that your “new friend” is a customer.  You should work towards repairing the relationship if possible. In the event that you turn your Grumpy Gus into a Happy Harry, it is perfectly reasonable to request he pull down the negative remarks from your page/reviews/bathroom wall at the Sizzler and anywhere else he shared his discontent.

Never feed a troll… also don’t let them get wet… and no bright light.

Second, if the person making comments is an internet troll, avoid getting into an argument with them. That’s what they want and if you add emotion into the mix, you will always lose. Even if you think you’ve won the scuffle, you didn’t.  Engaging with a hot-head is all about damage control.  You should be more interested in the impression you leave with on-lookers than the individual who “can’t even with  your dealership right now.”  Take a few minutes and walk away from your computer or smartphone. Don’t risk your reputation, because as we all know, screenshots are forever.

It’s worth noting that some large companies have had success sending trolls to the burn factory, although we don’t recommend you try it at the dealership level. Wendy’s is the most recent to successfully bash trolls and come out ok.  This, however, is a very risky little game, one which should only be attempted by a well-established “untouchable” brand.  To properly execute the “low-blow” tactic you’d need a comedy writer of Kevin Hart’s caliber on staff.  Unless you’ve recently hired the Wedding Ringer, don’t do it.  Seriously.  Don’t do it.  If you even stop to consider fighting fire with fire you’ll undoubtedly have already offended someone.

I’m the law in these parts, now step away from the keyboard before you bust through your extra medium Baby Gap shirt with those bulging internet muscles.

Finally, don’t tolerate any abuse towards other people commenting on your page. At any moment a troll can shift their attack on a customer or follower of yours. Use one of two options: hide the comment(s) or ban them from the page. If you hide a troll’s comments, only their friends can see their posts. They are under the illusion that they’ve “won”, but in reality, they are “shouting to the moon” with only their friends to hear it. You can ban the troll but there is a risk. The troll can create a new Facebook profile (most likely with a clever handle like @JusticeForCarShoppers) and start waging war again. That’s why I recommend hiding instead of banning. If need be, you can explain to the troll that their behavior is inappropriate, unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. That sets a tone to other trolls that there will be a certain level of etiquette expected on your page.

I hope these words were helpful. The “Era of The Troll” won’t be slowing down anytime soon and it’s safe to say that we need all the help we can get.