Posted in #HCSM

How Should You Respond To Trolls On Social Media?

One of the questions put most frequently to me when I speak to healthcare professionals is how to handle trolling on social media.

It’s an important question.

A troll posts inflammatory content with the intent of provoking an emotional response from you and
others in the community.

To answer the question, I’ve turned to Matthew Katz MD and his tutorial on dealing with Trolls, Malware and Spam.


Let’s define what we mean by trolling

Dr Katz begins with a reality check.

  • Trolls are not people who disagree with you.
  • Expect debate on Twitter.
  • Be open to being wrong.
  • When conversations get heated and emotional, show respect so you aren’t considered the troll

He goes on to define the different types of trolls we might encounter online.


And provides sensible advice for dealing with trolling behaviour.


How to deal with negative comments on social media

As I was writing this post today, I came across an article on this same topic at Social Times. It cautions against blocking or banning negative comments too readily, which echoes Dr Katz’s reality check – don’t label everyone who disagrees or complains as a troll.

Comments should not be removed if they refer to genuine customer-service issues. Know the difference and listen. Sometimes people just want to be heard.  

If you become the target of rumors or misinformation, then fight back with facts. If you make a mistake, then admit it and show how you will fix the mistake.

While this advice is based on patience and understanding through communication and conversation, it does not apply to persistent trolls and those intent upon abusing you.

Develop A Policy For User Comments

The article points to the need for organizations to have social media guidelines in place which details the kind of comments you will allow (for example, no racist or abusive comments) and then take action against those in violation of those guidelines.

These policies should clearly detail what kind of comments are allowed and be outlined on your website and social media accounts. Here’s an example from the Content Marketing Institute. 

Not sure whether to ban or block trolls? Dr. Katz has some pointers for you.


If you have a problem with trolling on Facebook, here’s a practical tip from social media expert, Guy Kawasaki:

When trolls commented on my Facebook posts, I used to delete the comments and sometimes ban the user. I found that deleting the comments often caused the troll to post another comment complaining about the deletion – often citing “freedom of speech.” Banning the user deleted the comment and prohibited the user from posting again; however, I was often emailed with a “Why did you ban me?” complaint. Both options caused me more work and likely fostered hostility. Now I just “hide” the comments. When you do this, only the person who made the comment and his followers can see the comment. From their perspective, the comment is still there but other people can’t see it.

Don’t Feed The Trolls

If you’re in the online world, you’ve dealt with a troll. If you haven’t, you very likely will.  I’ve had my fair share of criticism online, but thankfully I haven’t yet had to deal with any trolls. I am aware though of how nasty things can turn online and it pains me to see this darker side of social media.  The best piece of advice I’ve ever read is quite simply “Don’t Feed The Trolls”.

When under attack, respond as calmly as you can and in the case of trolls, remember that sometimes the best response is no response at all. Hootsuite

Trolls want attention.  Simply ignoring a troll could be your best tactic  – according to the Pew Research Center, 60% of respondents opted to ignore online harassment.

Have you had to deal with social media trolls? How have you handled it? Please share your tips and thoughts in the comments below. 

Related Reading

4 thoughts on “How Should You Respond To Trolls On Social Media?

  1. this article is about trolls on the internet, how to deal with trolls, and what kind of trolls they are. this article was very interesting because i learned what a real internet troll is and how to deal with it. i’ve been trolled before but did not know how to deal with it but now i do. i had no idea what troll stood for until reading this active which made a lot more sense.

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