Don’t feed the trolls, don’t starve them either

We live in a democracy where people have the right to freedom of speech and expression. But there is a price we pay for having to exercise this right. Simply put, when free speech marries anonymity in a digital world, it makes ugly babies called trolls.

By definition, a troll is: Being horrible on the Internet because you can.

Celebrity trolling has become the norm – movie stars and politicians are always at the receiving end on social media for anything they do or say (or not). However, the incidence of corporate trolling is often underrated and underestimated, even though it’s as serious in nature (maybe more) due to the number of stakeholders involved.

There is of course a broad spectrum of trolling, which starts at gentle mocking and extends to vicious online abuse like death/rape threats and sexist/racist/misogynist remarks.

The mocking often comes as a result of valid complaints about customer service, management behaviour or product misfires. However, any negative online chatter can affect a company’s reputation – whether or not the complaints are valid.

In this context, companies have no choice but to monitor and manage their online footprint, and what’s being said about them in the social media sphere. Honner uses Talkwalker for this monitoring on behalf of clients, although there are range of listening tools to choose from.

It also requires a balance of prevention and cure – avoid situations that set your brand up for ridicule, and manage any negative chatter in a measured and planned way. Below are some tips for companies managing their online brand.

Seven ways to fight the trolls

There are ways in which companies can avoid or manage this ever-increasing army of brand jackers:

    • Set out a Social Media Code of Conduct for your employees restricting them from publishing on the company’s behalf without permission. Any messaging not aligned with the brand’s mission or vision may attract social criticism and may be difficult to managed (as it comes from an unregulated employee). When employees quit, make sure their admin access to the company’s social channels are revoked before it’s too late.


    • If the feedback becomes abusive or threatening, report the trolls’ social media accounts to the channel where you are being ridiculed. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube – all popular channels have features to report social media harassment and violation.


    • Follow Newton’s third law ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. Never indulge in mocking a competitor; even if it boosts your own brand. It may come back at you before you know.


    • While it’s not good practice to hide or delete valid customer feedback, it can be an option when someone attacks you on your own channels with content that’s inappropriate, abusive or obscene.


    • Sometimes, inaction is the best action (depending on the case at hand). Some trolls that do not dis the brand but lead to a series of user-generated content can be ignored. Engaging in banter with haters is a waste of time and effort. Keep calm and carry on.


    • Pay a compliment when they are least expecting it. Sometimes the trolls may arise from a disgruntled customer speaking on their own or a friend’s behalf. Offer a solution, and an apology when it demands.


  • Last but definitely not least, do not have robots managing your social media accounts. Employing a specialist communication agency with social and digital capabilities like Honner would be a handy way to manage your online reputation.

Definite signs of progress, but still work to do – takeouts from the 2017 FSC Life Insurance Conference

Last week Honner attended the Financial Services Council’s (FSC) 2017 Life Insurance Conference which featured a range of speakers both from within and external to the industry as well as local and international representatives.

It’s fair to say the life insurance industry has received its fair share of attention in recent times. This time last year the sector was grappling with the fall out of the CommInsure scandal, re-building consumer trust and increased regulatory scrutiny.

So, what’s changed?

Naturally, the issue of regulation is still very much on the agenda with the FSC’s Life Insurance Code of Practice taking centre stage in a conference opening session which questioned ‘Will self-regulation be enough for the consumer?’

According to the FSC’s Sally Loane self-regulation is sufficient. “Life insurance is a highly-regulated industry… Self-regulation is an efficient way to bring about pro-consumer changes in the sector,” she said.

Panellist Alexandra Kelly, a principal solicitor for the Financial Rights Legal Centre, said how insurers communicate with consumers will play a key part in the success of the Code: “From a PR point of view, consumers have an expectation that if you’re going to self-regulate, you’re going to do your absolute best…you’re not going to just come in with a wishy-washy, half-arsed effort.”

While stating it was long overdue, ASIC’s Peter Kell commended the FSC and the industry for progressing with the code. He said its “real test” will be the alignment between what consumers are told and what happens in practice.

Another keynote session acknowledged that just meeting legal obligations would not be enough. As a result, ASIC’s Michael Saadat said the watchdog was including indicators of culture within life insurance reviews.

In the same session, MetLife CEO Deanne Stewart reinforced the importance of having a culture of ‘doing the right thing.’ “No matter how much you try and write very clear rules…at the end of the day, you can’t. And that’s where culture is so important,” she said.


Other sessions from the day covered:

–    Learning from futurist Mike Walsh on changing behaviours and attitudes – starting with the leadership level

–    Improving claims processes – making the system more efficient and reducing industry rhetoric and jargon for the consumer so      they can have greater awareness over what cover they have. A review of the work underway from the FSC’s Insurance inside      Super Working Group

–    Mental health and underwriting – how can data provide better outcomes for the end consumer?

–    Group insurance – recognising the important safety net group insurance within super provides for those who would not otherwise be able to afford or obtain cover.

Wrap up – this industry needs hearts and minds.

The overwhelming mood of the day was one of openness, transparency and a real desire for change to benefit the end consumer. It’s clear to me that this industry has not lost sight of who they are working for and what drives them every day.

This sentiment was carried right through to the concluding session of the day where Noble Oak’s Anthony Brown said. “If you don’t truly believe in what you’re doing then stop doing it and do something else.”