Jessica Cannon

Jul 25, 20173m read

Haters Gonna Hate: Why Internet Trolls May Be Good For Your Website


It all started in the early nineties. The internet was new and online bulletin boards, digital forums, and newsgroups were prevalent. The stark anonymity that the world wide web provided made it not only possible for internet trolls to exist but it also gave them the quintessential stage to annoy, harass, prank, and spew hate.

“Trolling,” as it later came to be known, has only grown in popularity as the web continues to evolve. Whether they’re drawing needless attention to a minor typo or are in full rant mode over a difference of opinion, internet trolls have been (and continue to be) a major challenge for many publishers.

It’s important to note that although internet trolls can certainly be annoying, some of the content they produce can actually have positive effects on your website.

More Engagement

Regardless of how bothersome internet trolls may be, the fact of the matter is that their participation in conversation is indicative of passion—if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t waste their time engaging. Even when they leave negative comments and remarks, it’s important to restrain from turning off your comments section because internet trolls are potentially generating more on-site engagement from other users who want to take part in a debate or express their opposing opinions. More engagement means more pageviews, clicks, and revenue.

The good news is that there are solutions to help publishers keep internet trolls under control. Spot.IM offers automatic moderation as part of its comprehensive platform of community engagement solutions. The technology automatically removes illicit comments and spam using a machine-learning algorithm. Since this technology is extremely sophisticated as well as automated, it significantly lowers the cost of human moderation that many publishers must pay hefty prices for otherwise.

Audience Insights

Just like the rest of your audience, the internet trolls on your site are there for a reason and, believe it or not, it’s more than just to wreak havoc. Something on your site has resonated with these individuals. Otherwise, they would be another site’s nuisance. Instead of trying to shut them down, you should use instances of trolling as opportunities to learn more about your audience.

Rather than getting too caught up on the fact that they’ve made some sort of negative remark, hone in on exactly what they’re saying and try to learn from it. Are they annoyed that one of your articles only presents one side of a particular issue? Are they angry because there is no coverage of a specific niche topic that they’re interested in? Regardless of what their frustration may be, try really listening to them. By knowing exactly what your audience thinks and how they feel, you’ll get a better idea of their perspective on specific topics which may spark new ideas and even concepts for follow-up articles.

Loyalty and Retention

In certain instances, the language internet trolls use may call for more than just a passive understanding and require you to take action. If something on your site has truly offended someone, it’s important to address the issue. Ignoring the comment and letting it fester—or worse, deleting it—will only heighten the issue and may encourage the dissatisfied user to post even more ill-toned comments on your site.

By responding directly to individual users, you are able to foster one-on-one relationships and further engage your audience. This method will create a feedback loop in which your audience feels like your site is a trusted destination where users can speak their minds while also having an authentic sense of community.

A good rule of thumb is to treat each engagement with an internet troll as something the rest of your audience may learn from. If you choose to communicate directly with the troll, remember that spectators are watching. Providing thoughtful responses to internet trolls is yet another opportunity to show your audience that you care and are tuned in to their feedback. Appropriate communication on the site will increase loyalty among your readers as well as audience retention.

Interested in putting Spot.IM’s automatic moderation technology to work? Drop us a line today at love@spot.im.

Jessica Cannon

Jessica Cannon is a freelance writer and editor specializing in marketing and social media. She earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University.

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