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Managing trolls and learning from critics on social networks

Facebook provides an exceptional opportunity for learning about your brand, particularly what people believe about it, what they want of it, and what they don’t understand, provided you are willing to listen in the first place and put a couple of thousand (estimate the cost of a small print ad) every month.

Facebook actually represents the holy grail of advertising, a two way stream of communication, which enables you to refine and further develop the brand, which is, in essence, a relationship between a consumer and a product or service, based on emotions and supported by facts when need be. It can however be a threatening realm as it requires the company to allow a huge degree of openness, some of which will be negative to very negative. Managing the negatives becomes extremely important, but can also be rewarding. At the extreme end of the spectrum, there is the troll. The troll is, at best a person who subverts communication from a planned topic to that person’s own agenda. The troll has a specific, negative psychopathology, which can range from attention seeking to planned and malicious damage. The first step in managing a troll is to identify the person as a troll. From personal experience, look for communication from the same individual that repetitively goes off topic. Typically, in the event of a negative comment, the opportunity can either be to offer a more sound understanding, or some form of contact, off Facebook, to remedy the situation out of the limelight.
The negative comment may however be repeated by the individual, in a malicious way, intended to damage the brand and business in the public eye. At this point, it is important to establish the person’s involvement in the brand. A simple question can establish that involvement.
If the person reports involvement, offer a meeting for redress. If the meeting is not accepted, or if the person reports no involvement in the brand, it is likely that the person has ‘dark triad’ personality traits, may be transferring unrelated psychological issues to the brand, and can be banned from your Facebook page without any qualms. For more information on internet trolls, get an orientation on Wikipedia and visit www.trollingacademy.org. Although it may come across as aggrieved, reasonable criticism can provide exceptionally valuable insights. The most typical insight with a strong product or service should be gaps in understanding, resulting in poor usage or under-usage of the product or service. If this is the case, the consumer will normally question value. This is a prompt for explanation of the product or service, and the communication should be repetitive. Unfortunately memory is fleeting, and Namibian consumers tend to be passive in gathering and absorbing information.
The other insight will probably be poor service, which can either devolve to one or more individuals providing the service, an entire department or the need to review the entire structure of communication and service for the client. As in the case of usage issues, it is important to see the need for a ‘fix’ and get to work on it, rather than avoid the reality which can become costly.
The maxim however must be that the customer cannot dictate the offering, but must be empowered to make the most of it. The customer must be respected as a source of business but is actually not the product development officer, although he or she may inform future development of products and services.
Dealing with criticism can be extremely demoralising but, with the exception of trolls, should be seen as a source of opportunity and refinement for the relationship entailed in the brand.
Nobody can please all of the people all of the time, so if there is only neutral to positive communication, it may be worth examining the lack of criticism as a potential threat, that arises out of indifference from customers who have problems but do not report them.

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