The motivation of trolls

August 8, 2017 Matt Heinz

So there’s this guy on Twitter who’s been trolling me for months now.  Frequently when I post something about content marketing or digital marketing, he’ll reply to tell me that none of it works.  He’s adamant that local print advertising and Yellow Pages ads are what really works.  He’s convinced that the rest of us are nuts, and has no problem regularly reminding us of that fact.  Mind you, he tells me all of this via Twitter, but that’s besides the point.

Trolls come in all formats and channels of course.  I’ve had people use blog comments, keynote feedback forms, Facebook ratings and more to share their perspective or opinion counter to what we do, espouse or believe.

I’ve had clients spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about trolls – particularly the impact they may have on public perception and opinion.  And while we all wish they weren’t there, I believe the key to mitigating their impact and presence is in understanding what motivates them in the first place.

Many trolls are afraid.  They’re afraid that something, anything (and likely you specifically) are a challenge to the status quo that has kept them comfortable and happy.  If you rely on print advertising and see a rise in digital marketing, that’s a threat.  And some people react with fear instead of curiosity, anger instead of adjustments.

Many trolls are jealous.  They want what you have.  They’ve either tried to get there themselves and failed, or refuse to do the direct, hard, long-term work to get there.  So instead they satisfy themselves by belittling those who have achieved the results or success they covet.

Trolls feed off of your response, and are repelled by silence.  They’re motivated by your attention, which in their mind validates their position and engagement – which serves to encourage ongoing (and sometimes escalating) communication.  And as hard as it can be in the moment, silence – non-response – is usually what gets trolls to look elsewhere for the response they desire.

I guarantee that your customers and prospects aren’t nearly as impacted by your trolls as you think they are.  Most people can see a troll for a troll.

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