Understanding Social Media Trolls

While the internet has widened our worldview and led us to many significant innovations, it has also created an underworld where people can bully, harass and mock others completely under disguise. These people are also known as trolls.

When it comes to period care brands and specifically women-owned businesses, hate speech and trolling are not uncommon. Companies that empower women take a lot of heat online from trolls who use anonymous throwaway accounts to spread hate and disapproval.

A prime example of trolling occurred in March of 2020, when Target aired an advertisement that showcased The Honey Pot Company, a black female-owned period care company. As part of Target’s “Founders We Believe In” campaign, The Honey Pot commercial features the company’s founder, Beatrice Dixon, talking about her company and what it means to her.

“The reason why it’s so important for The Honey Pot to do well is so the next black girl that comes up with a great idea—she can have a better opportunity,” Dixon says in the commercial.

For some reason, this well-meaning statement was met with criticism by reviewers on Trustpilot, which received thousands of one and two-star reviews for the commercial. Many claimed that the commercial was racist.

Trustpilot got thousands of reviews, many that contained hate speech. But once Dixon’s loyal customers saw this, the company’s rating on the site went from two stars to 4.9 in a single day.

“Target has a longstanding commitment to empowering and investing in diverse suppliers that create a broad variety of products for our guests,” Target told CNN. “We’re aware of some negative comments about the campaign, which aren’t in line with the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from guests who love and have been inspired by Bea’s story.”

Despite the negative feedback and hate speech, Dixon told CNN that the experience has “turned out to be a really beautiful thing.” The outpouring of support from her customers was able to drown out the trolls.

It’s essential for smaller and newer businesses to understand and know how to combat trolling because it is almost inevitable that they will face it at some point. Trolling allows people to attack the validity of brands—and for a small company that is just starting out, this could be catastrophic.

“Trolls attack the integrity of your brand, and thrive on the chaos they create,” Josephine Hardy, director of content and marketing at Acorn, told Fast Company. “The worst thing that could happen to a brand from trolling is to have their reputation destroyed. It takes time and money to establish a positive brand image. As little as one comment can plant the seed of doubt in the minds of customers.”

Fast Company talked to social media experts to determine some essential tips for brands battling social media trolls. The list includes crucial tips that smaller companies may not think about when they are first starting out. Their tips include distinguishing trolls from dissatisfied customers and actively monitoring your social media community.

It’s unfortunate that trolling exists, and even more unfortunate that one particularly bad comment could destroy a small business’s reputation. In the case of The Honey Pot, the owner was able to find a silver lining. At the end of the day, the best combatant against trolls may just be to continue to spread positivity and not let them win.