Beware the trolls who try to destroy your online reputation

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One wonders what inspires / compels someone to make a concerted effort to ruin a company’s online reputation by posting false reviews or unfounded negative comments on social media platforms that have taken years of dedication and resources to build.

We were witness to one such wholly unjustified attack on a customer’s Facebook page recently. The troll in question posted a one-star review and proceeded to accuse the company and one of its staff members of being rude, inattentive and unprofessional.

The review came out of nowhere and the team member who had been mentioned has an impeccable reputation and takes great pride in her personal brand. She is recognised globally as a thought leader in her field and is so efficient that she was recently promoted as a director within the organisation.

Bit odd, no?

Scrolling through all the correspondence, only to find positive, polite and friendly communication between the organisation and its negative reviewer, it was clear we were dealing with a troll who had ulterior motives.

There were also several alarm bells that arose: She had not provided any telephone number in the communication, preferring email correspondence from a Gmail account; there were discrepancies in what she had submitted; and we could find no trace of her online based on her claims.

Of course, it’s impossible to delete a bad review and so it should be, but how unfair is it that an organisation with an impeccable reputation and only 4- and 5-star reviews has to struggle to defend itself against such malicious slander?

Facebook allows organisations to report the review, but it takes days for them to act and so the undeserved ‘dirty laundry’ is hung out to dry, damaging both the reputation of the company and the staff member who is mentioned by name in the fake review.

There’s no way we’re going to get rid of trolls who clearly have nothing better to do with their time than spew bile in the social media-sphere or have been bought by a competitor who’s up to no good, and of course there are always going to be customers who are unhappy. So, how should brands handle negative comments and reviews?

1. Don’t ignore it
First and foremost, don’t put your head in the sand and hope it will go away. If it is genuine criticism, view it as such and handle it professionally, politely and gracefully. If the criticism is constructive, acknowledge it and try to not to be defensive. If it is unjustified, report it so that Facebook can determine whether it should be removed.

2. Always take the high road
As incensed as you have every right to be, retaliating in this scenario could see you enter a mud-slinging match that will not be viewed kindly by your existing community. Remain transparent, deal with the review factually and attempt to take it offline by asking for contact details so that the issue can be resolved. It may be tempting to slag the troll off on your own social media platforms, but resist the urge to stoop to their level.

3. Encourage positive reviews
Take the opportunity to reach out to your community asking for reviews so that your overall star rating is not affected by the troll’s deliberate attempt to sabotage your rating. You know the adage ‘today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s bin-liner’? Well the same pretty much applies to reviews. The more positive reviews you rake in following the troll’s false review, the better your star rating and the fake review gets pushed down to the bottom of the review bin. People will also use their common sense when they see that overwhelmingly, your reviewers rate you highly.

Here’s to a 2018 where trolls find a different bridge to settle beneath and leave travel brands to build their social media reputations unhindered.