Business Circle

Fighting Trolls, Spammers and Troublemakers Online

For people in business, having a great reputation is linked to how they present themselves and deliver results.

Regardless of how well entrepreneurs meet and exceed expectations in this regard, trolls, spammers and troublemakers who are quick to criticize have a voice through social media. And they raise their voices quite often, much to the dismay of companies around the world.

Small business owners face this threat frequently, whether the posts are anonymous or not. Here are four things you can do:

Related: The 7 Essential Steps to Monitoring Your Online Reputation

1. Get stuff updated.

Much inaccurate and outdated data pervades the Internet. Google your business or name, and you’ll see. Incorrect addresses, wrong phone numbers and old head shots can stop customers from finding a company.

Set up tools to be sure all this information is correct. I personally use VendAsta to fix what could take weeks, months or even years to update. VendAsta helps me be sure information online about my company is up-to-date and that I’m not losing business due to outdated contact details.

2. Listen.

Listening is so important for a company’s reputation. Facebook and Twitter are filled with tales of people's bad experiences with an airline, cable company or online purchase, only to have the companies involved issue an automated reply or not even respond. Or even worse, the companies might delete a person's comment. Experiences like these leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth and lower a company's reputation.

Actively monitor your social-media sites and blogs to see what consumers are saying about your products and services. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is not listening. In doing so, business leaders are missing out on chances to build brand loyalty and bypassing opportunity areas discovered by customers.

Related: Taming Online Customer Bullies, Cranks and the Like

3. Correct mistakes.

For the sake of your brand’s reputation, go out of your way to find negative feedback or criticism and respond. If what a critic is saying is true, fix a mistake and be honest about it. Let the person who wrote the complaint know you have corrected an error and explain what you did. Most times you’ll never hear from the person again, but I can guarantee the individual will appreciate that he heard directly from a company representative and didn't have to navigate an endless phone tree.

In conversations with consumers, inform them of your company's policies. Maybe they will then understand the way your organization does certain things. In the process you'll fill in anyone else who is following the conversation. I’ve found that the more you talk about issues and bring them to the surface, the less controversial and emotional they become, helping the company's reputation in the long run.

4. Confront it.

Keep in mind that you can’t stop people from spreading rumors or speaking ill about you and your company. So deal with it. A while ago, someone came after me online, linking my name with robbers, thieves and other unscrupulous characters. Think of the damage that was doing to my reputation.

I tracked down this individual and called him at home to figure out why he was using my name in connection with these things on his blog. His answer? Every time he wrote about me, his website traffic increased. He was using my name to bring more attention to his posts. I told him if he didn’t remove these entries and quit using my name, I would take action. Needless to say, he took down these references rather quickly.

My mother was reading these posts and asked why this guy was saying bad things about me. Sometimes people are just going to be bad and do things for their own reasons with no regard to you. In the case of trolls, spammers and troublemakers, one of the best things you can do is confront them.

Companies control their destiny and brand reputation on social media. The customers may not always be right, but they are always heard. Listen to your customers and take action. You’ll drive engagement, grow followers and build brand loyalty with every positive step taken.

Related: How to Fire Back at an Angry Customer on Social Media