Whether you’re online or not, there are people who will hate on what you have to say. That shouldn’t prevent you from organizing your community and communicating with members online and offline, yet many people tell me something like, “I don’t want to be on Twitter because then people might say bad things about me.”
I’m going to focus my advice on dealing with trolls on Twitter, because that seems to be the platform where trolls scare people the most. But it applies to any communications, online or offline.
Stay on-message. If you wouldn’t say it to a reporter, don’t say it online. Simple as that. (If you say something stupid at a press conference, you don’t blame the microphone. An off-message tweet is your fault, not Twitter’s.)
Only engage if it helps you. Almost no one gets positive value from engaging trolls. Before you engage, ask yourself: am I really getting strategic value, or am I just responding to make myself feel better?
You’ll never “win” an argument with a troll. You know in The Hobbit when the sun hits the trolls and they turn to stone? The internet doesn’t work like that. Trolls don’t shrink away from the light of your truth; trolls feed on conflict. Their goal is to get you to engage and get you off message.
Don’t stoop to their level. Internet trolls say horrible things that will make your blood boil. Engaging them just ups the risk that you say something foolish. If you decide to engage, carefully monitor your tone and message. If you go off, the troll wins.
Haters gonna hate. Don’t let that stop you from building your audience and communicating about your work, on Twitter or anywhere else. (And remember, you can always block people who offend you on Twitter!)
Seen someone take on a troll effectively? Or take on a troll and get burned? Share in the comments on our blog!
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Evan Sutton, Communications Manager, New Organizing Institute (NOI). Evan oversees NOI’s online content. NOI trains organizers to build and manage effective movements by integrating tried-and-true community organizing, cutting-edge digital strategy, and data-driven decision making. NOI provide free access to revolutionary tools, technologies, and research to help campaigns reach the next level.
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