The cardinal rule of social media: don’t feed the trolls

I almost did it. It was really, REALLY hard to resist.  I was going to show him who I was. How dare he try to malign my client’s reputation. I crafted the PERFECT comeback.…for a troll. I was perched precariously on the Facebook cliff, editing, reworking, rethinking and editing some more.

I feel witty.

I got lured into thinking I could take him down and my response would go viral like AMC Theatres or Taco Bell.  That’s my problem…I’m jealous of these people who write these AWESOME responses. I just want to be that witty.

So there it was.  The perfectly sarcastic, in a light and humorous way, comment.  All I had to do was hit “Share” and it would appear.  Something stopped me.  I wanted to find an even better comeback (contrary to popular belief, I have to work really hard at being witty.  I’m one of those people who, three hours later, says “Oh. That’s what I needed to say. Why didn’t I think of that at the time?”)  I erased the reply so I could noodle on it for a while.

I sought help to craft the perfect reply.  I asked my husband who has been known to deadpan more than a few zingers.  Then I posted a query in a private forum where some of the best and wittiest community managers I know could help.  That’s when it happened.


That group of social medialites talked me down off the cliff.  They reminded me of the cardinal rule of community management “Don’t Feed the Trolls.”  How could I forget?  How did I not see this for what it was?  How could I even consider replying with like sarcasm?

It just goes to show that a good troll can get to anyone…even a seasoned pro.  So, today, my message to you is twofold

  1. Don’t Feed the Trolls, no matter how tempting;
  2. Find someone to be your sober second thought, your conscience, your lifesaver, your safety net…and take advantage of that if you’re not sure of what you are about to post.

If you don’t have a lifeline…call me, text me, Facebook or tweet me. I’m much better at seeing trolls for who they are when I’m not involved.

What are your experiences with social media’s unsavory elements?  Have you ever engaged them or do you always show restraint?


The original article, “The Hardest Thing To Resist Doing on Your Facebook Page,” by Anita Hovey was originally published on the Twirp Communications website
Republished with permission, courtesy of Twirp Communications.
Photo Credit
Anita Hovey
Anita Hovey is the Head Twirp at Twirp Communications in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She provides social media training for business, including social media workshops and personalized training, and full-service social media management. Her specialty is women-focused organizations and women-owned businesses.
  • John Coonen

    Anita, you can’t imagine how timely this is. :) Thanks.

    • Anita Hovey

      Glad to help…did I talk you down off the cliff?

  • Patrick

    It’s always important to have someone talk you down. But it does happen: sooner or later, we just want to feed the trolls SO badly.

    I recently read of another blogger’s troll problem and a comment someone left there led to a post on my site about a way to deal with trolls that’s a little more devious:

    I suspect more comment systems will eventually offer such an option. At least, I hope they will!

  • socialmediadds

    Great advice…thank you…

    • Anita Hovey

      You’re welcome…thanks for reading!

  • biculturalmama

    I fed a troll once. Never again. I learned my lesson. Just ignore them.

    • Anita Hovey

      I have been known to do it on an off day on my own accounts…but never on a client’s account. It’s really hard to ignore, though, isn’t it?

  • Pragati Bidkar

    Hello Anita,

    Thanks for a great post! I think many of us have to face trolls in the online realm, whether we like it or not! Unsavory comments are one thing. Another thing that seems to be out of our control is people copying content. Anyone who’s spent hours on that great idea – brainstorming, writing, editing, making it perfect etc. will know what I mean.

    Many people filch the whole post and write a tiny line at the bottom saying ‘reproduced with permission’ or similar, when in fact they haven’t done so.

    Has this happened to you and how do you deal with it?

    • Anita Hovey

      You know, I did have that happen once… very weird copycat site. I simply asked them to remove it and they did. But that’s the only time I know it has happened to me personally.

  • Blood Type Dating

    There are different levels of trolling. A challenge is ok if on your level. anything beneath needs to stay there.