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Internet Trolls: A Brand’s Best Friend?

Social Media Marketing, Social Media Strategy

Brands Can Learn from Online Mayhem:

There are online customer complaints, and then there are social-media-based brand jackers. The first are generally legitimate; customers take to social to connect with brands expecting customer service in return. However, these “brand jackers” known as trolls, pose as large brands online and engage with a brand’s customers as if they represent the brand themselves. With the awareness of how much customers can control the online reputation of a brand, it begs the question: are trolls good or bad for business?


It would seem obvious that if someone tried to take control of a brand online, that it would negatively affect social reputation. Trolls will manipulate customer engagement, leaving the brand in a compromising position, with no choice but to defend itself. Other times, however it can bring some attention to certain company practices, and force the brand to reevaluate its social customer service initiatives. Trolls can help brands stay on their toes when it comes to monitoring their social media and when handled well, brands can come out on top despite the mayhem.

For the most part, Internet trolls live to cause havoc online. Their comments often take an insulting tone, and they seem to feel good making others feel bad. Conversely, (and rarely) there are trolls that take to social simply because they feel so strongly about a post, they are compelled to respond with a fiery, passionate retort. Recently, Target was the mark of Internet trolls on Facebook and proved that it is possible to come out on top of a challenging situation.

When the retail goliath announced that it was dismissing gender descriptions from its in-store toy sections, they incited social pandemonium. Customers took to the company’s Facebook page and comments poured in, slamming them for their decision. This got the attention of a Facebook user that took it upon himself to create a “Ask for Help” page using Target’s logo, posing as the brand.  His responses were snippy, a bit humorous at times, but overall, offensive.

Target proved that they had a plan for social media crises such as these. They immediately released an official statement calling out the social exploit. They then posted an image of retro troll dolls to their Facebook page with a caption that read, “Remember when Trolls were kings of the world? Woo hoo! They’re back, and only at Target stores.” Because of their strategic, well-thought-out retort and game plan, Target received an abundance of customer support. The post has been shared over 17,000 times, generated over 53,000 likes and provoked more than 5,000 comments.

A brand that can turn a negative post into an engagement opportunity with either customers or trolls themselves, proves that proper monitoring, planning and execution, along with smart delivery, is the optimal strategy. A comprehensive social media management software can help brands stay on top of their social game by listening to what is being said about them on social. It can help put out fires before they even start. This circles back to brands building and maintaining a strong, engaged community across their social platforms. Consumers best view brands when they are involved, engaging and communicative.

If a brand does respond negatively with a troll, it can fuel the fire. Trolls want to provoke their targets, and giving them what they want keeps feeding their egos. Emotional and lengthy responses often create more drama for the troll to perpetuate the forage. The ideal response to a troll should be short and non-confrontational; it may also force the admin to delete the comment altogether, be it too inflammatory. In Target’s case, they took the same tone as the troll – humorous – and it worked to their advantage. A short and sweet message that got the point across without being emotional was exactly what they should have done, and did.


When trolls don’t get the attention they crave, they will likely move on to the next online conquest. Like any psychological approach to human behavior, treating trolls as if they were facing a mirror seems like a good bet.

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