In today’s connected world we can read about civil unrest in a country when it is happening or, on a more local level, read an update from one of our many Facebook friends who has just checked in to their favourite breakfast place to brag about their delicious butternut pumpkin waffles with a side order of a Bloody Mary (yes, you know who you are!). With more and more people and businesses now sharing their wares and personal views on a variety of social media platforms, a sinister risk lurks in the void… the Troll.

Now while in folk lore The Three Billy Goats Gruff navigated this hideous beast successfully, in the real world many of us have fallen victim to the sinister and often unprovoked behaviour of the Troll. On a personal level I have seen a dear friend unfairly treated by the vile words of trolls who seem to serve only one purpose: to promote their own ignorance. The upside is it can be easier to control your settings and choice around what and where to post with the understanding you are sharing your own opinion on key social matters (and no, I don’t mean the butternut waffles!).

Businesses on the other hand are having to learn the risk of exposing themselves to the platforms of social media. Health in particular is an area that often draws public opinion whether it be positive about the wonderful care received or someone who feels that the care offered fell short of their expectations, or even worse put an individual’s health at risk.  A member of the public voicing their opinion, which should be encouraged in my view, should not be confused with the commentary from trolls.  This mythical creature often can apply a systematic tirade of abuse where a business often struggles to effectively engage with them, on the basis that the commentary is unfounded, or a viewpoint where reasoning with logic or compassion only seems to fuel the fire.

North Eastern has had to deal with its own Troll (cue the Troll hunter) that consumed many hours of managing their posts which at one point nearly saw the closure of our Facebook page. We chose to engage with our public and apologise for the decision to shut down the page due to the relentless attacks from the Troll.  What surprised our organisation was the response from our followers who stood firm in their support of the page and in their united defence of the Troll attacks.  So for businesses out there that are yet to actively engage in the social media world, consider what lies under the bridge yet don’t be afraid as there is always more than one way to cross a river or canyon.

Just like the billy goats’ comradery, I invite you all to get behind National Troll-Free Day this Friday!

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