5 Tactics to “Untroll” Your Online Trolls


When I talk to advisors about social media and marketing I most often hear two objections: content and complaints. The first worry is easily put aside when we discuss client conversations, study group meetings, conferences and regular advisor industry reading. For me, content is there if you are looking for it, especially when the advisor focuses on his/her niche or ideal client persona. I often share that I carry a small journal to capture ideas, phrases and quotes that I hear during the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an advisor or industry expert utter a phrase that I know will become the topic for one of these posts. And I counsel advisors to do the same.

Trolls and how to find them

After seven years of writing this blog, and an occasional piece here and there for advisor-targeted publications, I’m happy to say that there have only been a few instances of negative comments and even fewer cases of personal attacks. Just being “out there” does invite others to comment on your words (and looks and business).  Trolls are typically anonymous individuals who make remarks or comments that go beyond what you would expect in a personal or professional environment. With that in mind, I understand the fear and concern of advisors who want to avoid any type of criticism or (what could be considered) a complaint posted on a site for all to see. However, if you are going to use content marketing to put your opinion out there, you have to be ready to face a negative response once in a while. To me the benefits more than outweigh the inconvenience of dealing with a troll.

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Un”troll”ing Tactics

So let’s say you are putting your thought leadership out there (and yes, you should be at least considering it). You write a great post, or were interviewed for your expertise in a publication. What can you do to help mitigate the negative comment or even strengthen your positon? While I am by no means an expert, I have some ideas and tactics that have worked for me.

  1. Control your name and content:  This sounds pretty easy, you would know if you were interviewed or wrote something. Still, it never ceases to amaze me when I see one of my posts or articles republished by another provider. In some cases it may be a sister publication but I routinely see my blog posts appear in publications that I didn’t authorize or provide consent. To keep an eye out, I have set up a google alert for my name and SEI or SEI Advisor Network.  Google alerts is a free service that will notify you if your key phrase or specific words are used – use the alerts to help make sure you know what is out there.
  2. Go back and look again:  We love to see our names and quotes in the press. Typically, since we know the article is coming out, we are one of the first to look at the article and share with family, friends and clients. But you probably have noticed that most online content allow for reader comments and those comments aren’t usually written in the first few minutes of publication. I set a reminder to go back to the article a few days after it is published to look for comments (negative or positive). I want to make sure that there is not a lingering question or something that needs attention. It rarely happens, but I want to make sure that if there is something out there, I know about it and can respond, if necessary.
  3. Compliance check:  Again, although it is very rare, you may find a complaint or negative comment about something you wrote or said.  In these instances, my first response is to judge whether this is a formal complaint that needs to be addressed by compliance or your principal (for BD affiliated reps). As always, err on the side of over communicating with your compliance team.  Personally, I have rarely seen a need for a formal file, especially when the troll is making comments about writing style or product placement accusations.
  4. Don’t get mad.  Take your time:  One of the biggest mistakes that anyone can make is to respond too quickly to criticism especially when it is personal. Getting mad and attacking back is only going to start a fight that no one will win. This is key: your goal is not to fight the troll, but to position yourself as a thought leader, an expert and a resource for clients and prospects.  The readers are the important target. Forget about getting mad or hurt – this can be your opportunity to shine.
  5. Reply when ready (politely):  My goal and it has always worked so far, is that I always get in the last word. I always start by being overpolite, thanking the troll for commenting, and for allowing me the opportunity to expand on the point in question. I take the high road.  As the author or the interviewee, I know the point that I was trying to make, so I say it again in a different way.  I use this as an opportunity to be professional (remember I am not really talking to the troll) and can provide more detail to the point in question. In my experience, anyone who happens to be looking at the comments will see you as a voice of reason and professionalism.

Negative comments, criticism or even trolls are very rare in my experience and shouldn’t stop advisors from being more active in social and using content marketing. The benefits can surely outweigh the risks, but being prepared and knowing how to react can eliminate fears of going forward.

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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