Your community is humming along, and all of a sudden, an individual joins who takes personal pleasure in disrupting your community. It may be inflammatory remarks, attacking others for no reason, or simply taking an extreme contrarian view on every topic to drive everyone nuts. Unfortunately, it also means your community may have a troll problem.
Civility and logic pretty much go out the window with trolls. They are not in your community to build relationships, to add to the discussion, or be friends. They have come solely to cause mayhem. So what can a community manager do?
Below are three tips we have seen to be effective when dealing with trolls.
1. Identify, but don't name someone a troll
If you realize you have a troll problem, or an individual is being a troll, don't call them out as a troll. Not only will you give them the attention they seek, you could be wrong and make someone who wasn't really a troll feel like they need to live up to that label.
Keep in mind that trolls are different than someone who makes a one-off controversial comment. A troll is someone who comes to your community to cause disruption across your community and revels in joy as others fall into their trap.
If you do identify an individual as a troll, advise your moderators and keep an eye on them in case you need to take further action.
2. Don't engage with the troll in direct confrontation
You often hear “don’t feed the trolls” and if your community has a web-savvy audience, they should already be familiar with this advice.
The thought behind this advice is that responding to the antics of trolls encourages them to continue to being disruptive. Trolls will purposefully not listen to logic and they don’t care to abide by your forum rules. If you see people in your community engaging in verbal wars with trolls, remind them that ignoring an inflammatory comment is the best course of action and explain how they can flag future offensive posts. Finally, don't be shy to delete or close discussions that cause your community harm.
3. Use the moderation tools at your disposal
If a troll starts to become a major disruption and won't respond to friendly warnings, it might be time to use some of the forum software moderation functionality. While some may think banning the account or blocking an IP address is a good enough remedy, it's not the effective solution it once was. It's easy for a banned user to re-register under a new name. Usually all it takes is a new email address. Even an IP address ban is not perfect. Many modern ISP's (Internet Service Providers) use dynamic (ever changing) IP address and it's easy for a troll to use a proxy to get around any ban you have in place.
So what is the best plugin or add-on? Most forum software has a feature that lets you mark a member as a 'Troll'. This makes them invisible to everyone but themselves. The point of these plugins is to make the troll waste their time, posting away, while your community continues on, completely unaware.
Once a Troll gets bored, because no one is interacting with them, the hope is that they will move on to another target and leave your community alone. By so-called "freezing them out", you can avoid situations from escalating out of control and the community can become almost self-sufficient at combating trolls.
Now let's hear from you: Have you ever encountered a troll in your community? What are your own tips for dealing with trolls?