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Government data suggests that internet ‘trolling’ is on the rise in the UK. Therefore, it’s becoming more important than ever that you learn how to deal with trolls, to safeguard your company’s online reputation.

Threat to reputation

An internet ‘troll’ is somebody who strives to upset people and start arguments online. They typically achieve this aim by posting inflammatory, off-topic content via online channels including social media, blogs and forums.

If you are targeted by a troll, their actions can potentially have a disastrous impact on the way you or your company are perceived online.

The platforms typically used by trolls e.g. social media sites, are seen as trusted sources of information by Google. Therefore, if a troll posts derogatory content concerning you or your company on one of these channels, there’s a high chance that content will rank on the first page of a Google search for your business’ name.

Considering that the vast majority of people only look at the first page of a Google search, if you are targeted by a troll, the content will be associated with your brand image online.

Damaging effects of trolling

Igniyte’s research can help determine how damaging trolling can be for UK businesses. In our Business of Reviews report, we found that over half (51%) of companies surveyed have been impacted by unsubstantiated online reviews or targeted by trolls in the previous year, with 13% believing the problem is getting worse.

Three quarters (75%) of the businesses questioned said that online reviews, comments and forum posts are an important factor for their company’s financial and reputational status.

It’s unsurprising therefore that UK companies are spending large sums of money to deal with online trolls. Nearly a third of those polled said they spend up to £20,000 per ear addressing this issue, while almost a fifth devote as much as £30,000 per annum dealing with trolls online.

Trolling in the UK

Statistics quoted by The Telegraph shows that UK convictions for online trolling are rising. Ministry of Justice (MOJ) figures indicate that in 2014, over 1,200 people were found guilty of offences under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

This makes it a crime to send via “means of a public electronic communications network” a message or other material which is “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.”

Rising from 143 people in 2004, this means that three people are now found guilty of offences under Section 127 every single day. Furthermore in 2014, nearly 700 people were found guilty of offences under the Malicious Communications Act. This makes it an offence to send a threatening, offensive or indecent letter, electronic communication or article which is intended to cause anxiety or distress.

Increasing from just 64 in a decade earlier, two people a day are now convicted under the Malicious Communications Act. Therefore, in total five people every day are now found guilty of crimes which essentially equate to online trolling. In other words, the rising number of online trolls means it is more important than ever that you safeguard your companies reputation against their activities.

Dealing with trolling

There are a number of ways you can shield your business’ image online against the actions of a troll. If you are targeted, ensure you take the following steps:

  • Figure it out: First, determine whether you are actually being trolled. If your company is receiving negative comments online, they could just be valid consumer concerns. Monitor your brand online and ask your social media team to flag up any comments that could have been posted by trolls, to determine whether your company has been affected by this problem.
  • Ignore the troll: If you have a genuine troll on your hands, it is best to ignore them. Trolls thrive on attention so engaging with them via your company’s digital communications channels will incentivise them to post more damaging content concerning your company. Instead of interacting with trolls directly online, seek to solve the problem through other means.
  • Report the troll: Report someone who is trolling your company with negative content online, so said content will be removed. Most sites will not tolerate trolling and provide you with the means to report abuse on their platforms. It is fairly likely that if your company is genuinely being trolled, the platform in question will deal with this issue.
  • Strengthen page one: Ensure that positive content appears on the first page of a Google search for your company’s name, to prevent troll content from ranking. Here we would advise a two-pronged attack. First, create digital assets with relevant content. Second, encourage customers to leave reviews of your company online. With these strategies, you could generate the content required to shield the first page of a Google search for your business’ name.

Be proactive online

With the number of UK trolling-related offences rising, it is essential that you shield your business’ reputation. Be proactive stance and implement strategies to limit the effects of trolling on your company’s reputation online, so you can cultivate the positive image required to attract and retain consumers.