How to deal with internet trolls


People shout abuse at Concern Worldwide’s web team. Well, let me re-phrase that, they tweet abuse at us – often in capital letters. It happens regularly. But, we decided to turn these internet trolls to our advantage. Join us as we go troll hunting!

Twitter can be invaluable.

You can use it for lots of great things. It has changed how we consume information. But, lurking in this galaxy of information are many trolls.

According to Wikipedia, a troll is “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people.”

Here is an example of what they say:

What about looking after poor and hungry children in Ireland first! Don’t see any African nation ever helping us!

That’s mild. The tweets we receive are often racist, targeting the people we help in the world’s poorest countries.

Years ago, we weren’t sure how to handle stuff like that. But then we realised that each comment presented us with an opportunity. We set ourselves an objective: to engage with trolls and try to convert them into people who supported our work.

This is how we did that:

Pick your battle

Our policy is to engage with (almost) all trolls. But, if it is clear from their profile that they are incapable of a conversation, then we don’t engage. That’s a rarity though.

Be prepared

You know what issues people might have with your organisation. So, think about them beforehand and prepare your side of the argument. Given the brevity of Twitter (140 characters) you might want to create some content on your site that will support what you’re trying to say. Then, you can link back to it. Here is a page we often link to these days.

Questions please

Make sure you answer the question you’re being asked. Often with trolls though there is no question, just a statement. So, use this as an opportunity to ask the troll a question. Engage them in a conversation. Send them a link to one of your videos and ask them what they think. The first step in converting a troll is starting a conversation with them. I have included a great of example of that below.

concern tweet conversation

concern tweets

People are watching

People are curious to see how you will react to trolls. Keep this in mind when you’re replying: there are other people watching. So, use it as an opportunity to highlight your content – link back to your site or other social media. Use something like to track the number of people who click on your link. You’ll be surprised how many people are watching the conversation.

Detractor to supporter

Turn your trolls into an opportunity to talk with more people in a more meaningful way. View these exchanges as a positive way to tell your side of the story. Happy hunting!

Join our free webinar on how to build an engaged online community.

Social Media webinar


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Nodes, modules, tweets, div tags, tickets and “likes” dominate my working day. As they have for the past 15 years, working for different web companies in the UK and Ireland. These days, I’m happily plying my trade as the head of digital for Concern Worldwide. We help the world’s poorest people to transform their lives.