Thriving in a Troll Culture? Online Reputation Management

How do you survive modern day troll culture where online reputation management is getting harsher and harsher. In this eventplanner TV episode, author Lori Randall Stradtman shares her insights.

18-09-2017 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten

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How do you survive modern day troll culture where online reputation management is getting harsher and harsher. In this eventplanner TV episode, author Lori Randall Stradtman shares her insights.


Hi, Laurie, welcome to our studio.


Hi, thank you so much for having me.


We're going to talk about online reputation managements. We live like in a troll culture these days, but what does that mean?


Well, what that means is we're at a point in human history when never before... we're at a turning point. Never before have we been required to be online to talk with so many people, to show who we are online. And yet at the same time it's so hostile in many cases. And what I mean by that, and I showed before we started. I actually have a puppet I use when I do workshops. There's a lot of that going on online, right. You express an opinion about something; it could be something incredibly innocent. I'll make up an example like aardvark awareness, which I don't think exists. And you just say, wow, I loved that aardvark special I saw on television last night. And someone comes up, all about aardvarks and what a terrible person you are, and how awful it is, and did you know about aardvarks? And all of a sudden something that was congenial, it was polite, it was fun, it was interesting turns into. And that happens much faster than it ever has before online for lots of interesting reasons.


Well, if we're going to dish. And I hate to say it, but the United States has been a trendsetter in this regard. Especially in the last year, year and a half, online communities have changed radically. And a lot of people who used to keep their opinions to themselves or within a small group of friends, suddenly decided, that it's time to be like that. And they feel like they have a cause. And a lot of their causes all across the spectrum, it's not just political conservatives for example. It's people all over the spectrum. And there is this antagonism, there is this heat. In emotional terms it's a very hot medium. And what can happen is an issue, and I'm going to use the aardvark issue since I think it's imaginary, we're hoping it's an imaginary issue. But what happens is let’s say there's a big aardvark discussion on YouTube, and people are putting up different videos about aardvark this and aardvark that. And then it can bleed over into Twitter. And then it can go over onto Facebook. And within a few hours you can have an all-out firestorm about aardvarks, where people are ruining lifelong friendships. People are jeopardizing their career prospects. Because when an otherwise educated, level-headed, competent, bright person, turns into this, online over nothing. That doesn't look too good.


No, it doesn't, it doesn't. But I see the same happening with businesses. They post a lovely post on something very casual. For example, let’s say Starbucks will post, well, we have a lovely new coffee. And suddenly, I don't know where it comes from… yeah, those guys.


Yes. It's amazing, isn't it? They could talk about… Remember the cups at Christmas time? That was a fine example, it was like, okay, we have a new cup now. And then all of a sudden it's the end of the world and everyone is up in arms. So the climate is very hot. It's a medium that's gotten incredibly hot. And the biggest difference between online and like, written, you know, just strictly written media, is the emotional climate. And trolling. There's a difference between people who are being reactive, and trolls. Honest to goodness trolls feed off of emotional energy. They feed off of the shock, or the anger, or the hurt. And sadly that's a growing trend. And others are just highly reactive. They're so sensitized now that one mention of aardvarks, and suddenly they have had enough and they're just going to, you know, Because they've been so sensitized. But when someone is flaming out in that highly sensitized behavior, it looks and feels and smells a whole lot like a troll.


It does. But as a business, or as a person it can be both, what do you do when something happens when you post something like this?


Well, there are two different avenues that we need to discuss. The first is what we are putting out, what kind of things are we sharing. And because when they're inflammatory, odds are very good. It's ringing the dinner bell for these, you know. It is, I didn't plan on using the puppet so much this morning. It just works. But putting things out that might not even seem that inflammatory. Staying emotionally level is key. It's the key regardless of whether it's stuff that you're sharing, or things that you see out there that someone else has shared that might not be your cup of tea.


But does that mean, if you have an opinion to share, that's your good right, that you can't do it because you think maybe there will be trolls doing it?


I'm glad you asked that, because the truth is I believe that this is still an extraordinary time in human history. We have the power to build businesses, to create things, to create awareness for things that count, things that matter, things that make people's lives better. And so when all the people who are doing good, shut up, we can't have that, you know, that's not the answer. he answer isn't to step back and say, I'm done with that. Because professionally, I don't think there's going backwards. But what we can do is to express ourselves in a level way. And not to be boring, but you know when ... I'll give you an example. When you're walking down the street, we're walking down the street and we kind of trip, trip on something, we automatically recover our center of gravity. Without even thinking, it's instinctive. We always do that, because we don't want to fall on our faces. Well, it's the same sort of thing that we need to develop online as we communicate with people. You trip, somebody shoves you, recover your emotional center of gravity quickly, and don't let them get you, Whether it's internal, because they feed on it internally too. Because, you know, how you feel somebody's energy in the room, they feel you, they just do. And so yes, by all means share. Share things that matter to you, share things that make peoples’ lives better, that make your life better. And do it from your best self. And if, and when this kind comes around then there are strategies you can use. You know, we certainly don't have to oblige them and just let them go on, and on, and on. With name calling, logical fallacies like ad hominem attacks. Or I know you are but what am I. Or these silly juvenile schoolyard ridiculous things that otherwise, educated, responsible, bright people who are effective in other areas of their lives are resorting to. You've got the President of the United States who can't seem to hold himself back on Twitter.


He does look a bit like your puppet.


Indeed, right. Three in the morning and… it doesn't have to make sense, because it's an emotional venting that is taking place. And things do, it's become more socially acceptable for many to do the same kind of thing. So we have many, many dragons where we didn't used to have as many, because they're too ashamed of themselves to act like that, they knew better. Nobody was brought up to carry on like that. No civilized person was brought up to carry on like that. So definitely it's a trend. But we can block them if they're repeat offenders who have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the conversation.


And it's okay to block them?


It's encouraged. Just like in life if you had someone coming to your door every day, who was pestering you or calling you names, you wouldn't invite them in. If there's someone who's being obnoxious to you, you don't just allow them. And a lot of people have gotten confused with the difference between being kind and being nice. And online more than ever there is , I'm a huge believer in being kind, it never has to be nasty or spiteful. But it doesn't follow that being kind means having mushy limits to what you'll tolerate. And especially for businesses in group forums, any kind of group forum, or on a personal profile where there's a lot of discussion going back and forth, there can be rules of the road. It’s just like with cars and traffic, there are rules of the road. We have common understandings, you stop at stop signs. You stop at red lights.


But if you do that, so for example I have a Facebook page of my company or event, and there's somebody trolling us, I block the person, you don't have the risk that he will take another route and be even more angry than before?


Absolutely. So thank you for bringing that up. Usually things get to a point. And as things are escalating, because normally they don't start out with insults. If they do, then you just can block them and they'll just go somewhere else. But normally as tensions escalate, there’re two most important things I can suggest. The first thing is to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and to try and really see them and hear them and understand where they're coming from. Particularly if it's a business and it's a customer service issue. It's like, okay, I want to understand you. And a lot of times if it's legitimate the person will calm down. Because they're being seen and heard and they'll be less triggered. And we don't have to agree about everything at the end of the day, that's not even the point really. It's the mutual respect, I see you, I hear you, I get where you're coming from. That's humongously valuable, and in the greatest percentage of the time that's going to be the thing that makes the biggest difference. Because every human being, we have an integral need to be seen, really seen and heard. And if you give someone that gift generally you will have a friend for life, when you've been genuine. Now, some people… that's not going to work. And so you would go to them, you could say, Hey, you know what, I would love to explore this further with you. Let’s take it off here privately. And that's a really good way of resolving things. And some people don't want to resolve. Some people are flying off at the mouth, like individuals on Twitter at three in the morning. And those are the ones that are… it's healthy to block. Just like at the dinner table, if someone's going to be incredibly rude, except it's much easier to ask them to cool it.


Shut up.


Right, exactly. It’s an example. So, okay we hear you. Now, we need you to be quiet for a little while. Or what we're really talking about is aardvarks in springtime. If you've ever seen that movie, it's a classic, we love it. And we just need you to be quiet. If you can't say something nice, if you can't say something productive, something that contributes, then we're going to have to block you and we really don't want to. Do you hear me? So at that point the ball's in his court. He can either continue to be rude, which he may well. Or if there is some genuine goodwill there and some genuine desire to relate to people, in a non-trolling out of mom's basement kind of way, then that can shift. Does that help?


Yeah, sure. Lori, I see our time is almost up. People who want to know more on this subject, you wrote a book on it.


I did, I did. I wrote, Online Reputation Management for Dummies. It's about how to build a brand online. And most recently I have been talking a lot more about helping people to find their voice online. Because it's a little scary out there. But if we don't express the best part of ourselves and share things that change peoples’ lives in a positive way, then we're sitting on our talents, we're sitting on the best part of us. I think we need that, I think the world needs everybody's best and brightest self.


Okay, Lori, thank you very much for your time.


Thank you.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show, I hope to see you next week.