We’ve all encountered the haters and trolls in our daily Internet lives. Heck, we might even pride ourselves in being one of these so-called demons, whether for good or evil, as we traverse the jungles of the online world. It’s a tough world out there in our imaginations. We’ve all heard the stories of the harsh Yelp review destroying a family restaurant, the negative YouTube comments, the preposterous forum messages, podcast and video chat animosities. It’s human instinct to return the hate, notching it up a few levels in the process, as it becomes a cascading event with no turning back in many cases. In extreme cases, lifetime enemies can be made online in a matter of seconds. In prehistoric times, you would have had to intentionally take out an opponent’s entire family or wipe out small villages single-handedly to earn this type of hatred and revenge from your nemesis.
Let’s face reality, though; hate is one of the primal human emotions. And yes, I know love is too, but there are plenty of sweet, sticky, soft articles you can indulge yourself in if you want to read about puppies, puppets, and kittens instead. I won’t mind. Hate is not just an online phenomenon, but throughout all aspects of our lives, in business, in the work environment, just daily lives, there are things we all hate whether rightfully so or imaginary – even if we lie to ourselves that we don’t hate anything. Every interaction that we encounter with anyone or anything has the possibility of delighting us or enraging us. With social media, these interactions can live on for eternity rather than the few seconds in which they occurred.
Our emotions have now become a spectator sport for anyone to view, judge, or even participate in, with our social media exposures.
The single aspect that separates the online social media world from real life though is that the digital world provides a smorgasbord of anonymous personal “haters” who can spew their hatred as the result of a few keystrokes, person-to-person. The few, masterful, trolls will have learned the exact buttons to push to invoke every possible emotional response. But what if we look at our haters in a different way, not as haters, but as highly passionate emotional critics?
Follow me here or go back to looking for kitten videos. Criticisms we would never get from those biased based on their love for us, or heavens forbid, hiding their ulterior motives from us by licking us with undue praise. No one is going to throw hate at the pretty girl if they think they have a romantic chance with her, catch a fleeting compliment thrown their way, or given some prominence in her life. So, who is giving you the more honest advice? The zealous, fervent, criticizing trolls? Or the wallowing, lusting, lovelorn, sloths?
Research has shown that businesses who acknowledge their ardent haters and engage in an intelligent dialect with them (at least with those trolls who are intelligent) receive proactive criticisms that have improved their business, customer loyalty, and customer service presence, more than any highly paid PR firm or outside consultants have. A group of highly visible companies were surveyed, and they said that they had, at least, an 80% “superior” customer service rating or better. However, when the actual customers of these same companies were surveyed, only 8% of the customers confirmed the companies’ satisfactory rating! The number one complaint from these customers? “The company didn’t listen to my complaints!” Highly profitable companies such as Zappos, KLM, Apple, Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, Amazon, and others, actually have specialized customer service departments dedicated to evaluating their hater’s comments for merit, improvements, and responses.
But how does this ‘commercial’ data relate to our social media world? We all know that the easy solution is to ignore your trolls and haters. We all do it. It’s especially easy when the troll is a mental case, has no clue what is going on, or is simply following the lead of another idiot. These trolls deserve to be ignored since there is no redeeming value in stupidity. I’m sorry, but we can’t cure stupid, as the saying goes. Avoid the crazies.
The widespread world of social media, however, has provided a distinct voice to the intelligent trolls. And rather than ignore them, many would be well served actually to listen to them. You have to be intelligent enough to separate the mushy trolls from the stewish trolls, however. Deciding which ones to ignore is an important distinction that has to be kept in mind by everyone when deciding which trolls to feed and which ones to starve.
It’s difficult psychologically to admit to the glare created by the criticisms of trolls, and our common reaction is to simply ignore them. However, you are doing a great disservice to your “product” (whatever it may be) by simply ignoring any worthy complaints.
Most people don’t complain simply just to complain. No one wastes their time on something they have absolutely no interest in. If someone is complaining, understand that they value you or your product enough to make an effort to let you know. Don’t ignore this. Recognize it for what it truly is. An opportunity! It is an opportunity to rally someone’s experience with you.
The negative effect of staying silent or ignoring the idea though has the potential to create cascading chasms of displeasure with your fans that is exposed across various social media channels. Even simply acknowledging a criticism, without directly fighting back in anger, is a valid approach. A touch of humor goes a long way too. A successful campaign, though, will acknowledge the criticism, investigate its merit, and use it to improve — if it’s a legitimate concern.
Successful media ventures rarely have to advertise for fans because they have continually catered to their fan base through meticulous quality, product, and customer service – and their fans spread the word. Successful businesses, entertainers, and media outlets have learned how to love their haters, today. The feedback your haters provide is a thousand times more valuable than the brown-nosing fan who is simply obsessed with getting closer to you for whatever their ulterior motive. And, for any of us that have ever been in a position of power, you can smell brown-nosing from a mile away.
Embrace your clever trolls. Love your trolls. Feed your trolls. No amount of money can pay for the value of one honest critique that they may make. Your trolls are much more authentic than your best lover. Feed your trolls. At least the good, skinny, ones.