We often discuss the value of social media as a mechanism to connect brands with customers and prospects. The two-way communication enabled by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allows firms to connect with audiences in completely unprecedented ways, and on a much larger scale than previously possible. The insights that companies gather from social media can be valuable in product development, marketing, and sales.
On the other hand, we have also heard a lot about internet trolls lately. Both Target and Doritos have received a hilarious helping hand from a Facebook user named Mike Melgaard, who seems to have made it his personal mission to beat online trolls at their own game.
This weekend, I saw a sponsored post on Facebook urging me to enter a contest to become the “Chief Nutella Ambassador.” I avoid keeping Nutella in my house at all costs, primarily because I don’t want to have to purchase a new, larger wardrobe. However, I was intrigued by the idea of the contest, and clicked on the ad to learn more. As it turns out, the first comment on the page reminded me about my Nutella-related health concerns. Then, I noticed many more health-conscious consumers posting their thoughts about the contest.
After scrolling through several more pages of comments, a few patterns emerged. There were the grammar enthusiasts.
Next, those who didn’t like the idea of the contest wanted their voices to be heard.
Then, the Nutella haters. (Might I suggest you spend time on another page?)
Finally, the general haters, who can be sure to find obscure errors.
Accordingly, companies and managers must think of trolls as they plan their social media strategies. Certain types of posts may be particularly prone to trolling, such as:
- Posts that contain errors. At the very least, all posts should be checked for spelling, grammar, and factual errors. Without this step, it is very difficult for anyone (trolls or otherwise) to take your posts seriously.
- Posts promoting a controversial product. In the case of Nutella, social media managers most likely knew to expect trolls to pounce on the subject of health and wellness. This can also be true for products that may have poor reputations for functionality, appearance, or safety.
- Sponsored posts. By paying Facebook to show your company’s post as a “Sponsored” post in users’ newsfeeds, you are sharing branded content with users who have not explicitly “opted-in” to receive messages from your firm. These users may feel frustrated that they are seeing advertisements for products that they have not demonstrated any interest in, so trolling may be a natural reaction for some.
While the first item on this list is a no-brainer, the second and third types of posts are often inevitable. Brands must weigh the pros and cons of social media activity to ensure all factors are considered before implementing or changing a social strategy.
All negativity aside, at the time I saw the Nutella post, it had accumulated over four thousand “likes.” To me, this means that four thousand people liked the post enough to publicly declare their appreciation of Nutella. I feel that a “like” on a friend’s post is almost meaningless, but a “like” on a brand page is a powerful statement. To accumulate thousands of “likes” on a single post is a feat in itself, and to consistently do so is even more impressive.
So, which is a more powerful statement about a brand: a large number of likes or a few negative comments on a post? Does trolling detract from the impact of a brand’s message? At the end of the day, do the trolls even matter?