Just like in the physical world, there are different types of people on social media. To simplify things, I classify them in four generic categories, from most positive to most negative: the brand advocate, the casual engager, the angry customer and the troll. In this article I will focus on the last two: the troll and the angry customer. The troll is the one you don’t want anywhere near your pages, and the one on which you should smash the almighty banhammer swiftly and without regret. The angry customer can become a brand advocate faster than you think if you treat them well. It can be difficult to distinguish between the troll and the angry customer, but it is imperative that you make this distinction before taking any action. If you treat the troll as you would an angry customer, or an angry customer as you would a troll, bad things happen.
The ultimate goal of the troll is to make the community manager angry. It can be by making you lose your time and clog up the customer service channels by acting like angry customers while they don’t even own the brand you manage. It can be by spamming negative articles about your brand that you would prefer stay out of the open. It could also be by interacting with prospective customers to try and scare them away from you, sometimes with success. It can be a number of other things. Here is a non-exhaustive list to help you identify the troll:
- His only goal is to hurt your brand in any way possible.
- He does not own or plan to own any product or service your brand offers.
- He is completely out of the target demographic of your brand (ex. a teenage boy on a luxury cosmetics brand).
- He bashes other brands and/or is a member of trolling groups and/or is a strong brand advocate of a competitor.
Once you have identified the troll as such, the best course of action is to simply ban them when you have that power, or ignore them on a platform that doesn’t allow it. You cannot reason with them. You cannot win their business. You cannot do anything that will make them anything other than a troll. Don’t lose your time or energy on them, and simply move on. If their actions do not gain any traction, trolls have a tendency to move somewhere else.
The Angry Customer:
The angry customer can also make the community manager angry by being rude or demanding. However, these people are more often than not, brand advocates that have been disappointed by your brand. They have strong voices and opinions and are not afraid to spread them. If you give a stellar customer service to an angry customer, you have quite a good chance of turning him into a brand advocate. While there is a fine line between the troll and the angry customer, here are some characteristics that will help you identify the angry customer:
- His only goal is to get a repair/replacement/refund on a product/service that disappointed him.
- He owns, used to own, or plans to own a product or service your brand offers.
- He is in your target demographic.
- He complains or is a brand advocate on other pages or social media presences unrelated to your market.
Even though the angry customer might use swearing or shouting as a way of showing he is angry, the worst thing you could do would be to ban him or ignore him. If he is not heard, he can turn his bad experience into a personal vendetta against your brand and you will have a thorn in your foot for a very long time. I’ve seen some vendettas last for years! What you have to do is acknowledge his complaint as soon as possible and reassure him that you or someone from your customer service team will make every effort possible to solve the problem. You need to take the complaint from public to private as soon as possible, but it’s important that you don’t have any expectations at this point: it is better to have low expectations surpassed than the other way around. You have to make the interaction genuine and empathic so that the customer will feel heard and understood. If he feels there is a real effort being put into his complaint, he has more chances of coming back as an advocate in the future once his problem has been solved.
The job of a community manager isn’t always easy, and is never black or white. Take these guidelines with a grain of salt and trust your gut feelings when you need to decide on a best course of action. Human interactions will always have a way to surprise us in good or bad ways, and only experience will help you make the best decision.
What’s the worst trolling story you have ever heard or managed? Tell us in the comments!
Image credit: Banhammer