First comes the self-censoring.
Comments – both spoken and written – are diluted to avoid poking what lurks beneath the bridge.
Then comes the withdrawal to the sidelines as the once boldly spoken, visionary entrepreneur starts to question their innovative, progressive ideas and techniques.
And finally, as negative “press” is unable to be shaken, the business owner retreats once and for all.
In the Norwegian fairy tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, the horned ruminants outwit and overpower the fearsome, hideous troll to savour greener pastures.
It allows children to sleep well at night; but what keeps their parents awake is the cyber variety, the nasty, often omnipotent and omnipresent online troll.
These cyber trolls have something nasty to say about anyone and anything, including people they haven’t met and products and services they haven’t tried.
But it’s enough to send many business owners hurriedly ‘back across the bridge’ into obscurity, where their revolutionary ideas and talents are largely unheard and unseen.
For some, a rising profile and recognition cause so much angst, fear and internal self-doubt, that they just can’t deal with the spotlight.
But monsters also hide in the dark. In fact, when the Trolls win, society loses.
So how then to move forward, actively seek profile, authority, credibility and recognition and withstand the ugly gaze of such hideous creatures?
Well firstly, avert yours.
First Rule – To Tame A Troll
Never read what trolls say.
You don’t know who they are or what motivates them. They may be in competition with you, they may even have tried to start a similar business and failed.
Likewise if troll magnetism is the result of a magazine interview, chances are they may have approached the same media outlet but been rejected.
They may also be an ex-partner’s partner. They may even be an ex-friend’s friend.
On the other hand some trolls actually have emotional and/or psychological conditions that require medical attention, and as a result they pick random people to harass.
It really isn’t personal even though it feels like it.
Remember, you can only upset people when you’re making a difference.
The only way to avoid the trolls is to stay silent. Learn from the goats, cross ‘the bridge’.
Second Rule – To Soothe A Troll
Respond where appropriate, always being professional.
Then get SOMEONE ELSE to monitor your reviews / trolls and ONLY let you know when (and if) you have to respond. DO NOT buy into trollish energy. DO NOT read what the trolls say.
In other words, Refer to Rule No. 1.
Third Rule – Recruit Trolls
Get your own ‘Trolls’ and set them to Positive Work. This is why most reviews – positive and negative – should be viewed with healthy skepticism.
When I was a political reporter, Labor Party supporters (for instance) would choke talk back radio lines to attack the Opposition Party and vice versa.
As fierce political opponents they would also write letters to the editor, as seemingly impartial community members even though they were card carrying holders of one political party or another.
The same happens with book, restaurant, product and business reviews.
You can take advantage of this and set your ‘Troll’ to even the mix, but be careful — avoid enraging the trolls.
When All Else Fails Hire A Troll Slayer
Sometimes there’s just no clear way to cross that bridge; the Troll is too big, too fierce, too hideous and completely unrelenting, it’s like they’re just waiting for you to pop up your head!
When trolls take to social or mainstream media and leave negative comments or reviews, your negative ‘publicity’ requires someone with media crisis skills who can ‘spin’ a negative into a positive.
Please do not underestimate bad comments on social media, even though it might not be a newspaper, magazine or TV appearance, it can still damage your brand and reputation.
And that’s when you want to hire a Troll Slayer, aka a media crisis mitigation specialist.
Keep Creating Your Magic
Head down, horns up.
If you hide from the Trolls new monsters will emerge: regret, guilt, sorrow and sadness.
The fact that you’re attracting ‘haters’ is cause for celebration — you’re causing lively debate, ruffling feathers and challenging the norm.
Be a disrupter.
The world needs more Airbnb’s, Uber’s and Alibaba’s. Playing small serves no one, least of all, you.