There’s something about Twitter that brings out the troll in me. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels like more often than not I’m responding to public figures with ranting negativity.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/

To be fair, I’m often responding to examples of deep stupidity, but that doesn’t mean I have to reply likewise. It shouldn’t be surprising, but a calm open-letter to an MP (also sent directly) received a significantly more constructive response than would a ranty 140 character tweet.

I’ve had a few conversations recently, which — combined with my own unease at being “that guy” — have me trying hard to be more careful in my responses. Here are my tips on being less of a troll when responding to stuff that makes you grumpy:

Engaging Governments

With government interaction, a calm, considered approach makes a lot of sense. I imagine politicians are almost immune to shouty rants, due to their daily exposure in the house, and no doubt regular dose of crazy constituents.

One might get the impression that MPs are “listening” on twitter because we are able to interact with them so immediately, but the truth is that using the processes we already have in place for legislation will always get a better result. These include (among other things) submitting to select committees, official information requests, and of course emails and letters directly to MPs.

If you haven’t engaged in lawmaking before, it’s actually not at all daunting. All opinions are valid, and in many cases expert opinion on your particular area of expertise are appreciated. A good place to start might be Mai Chen’s recent book: The Public Law Toolbox. Email your local MP. Look into what processes are currently underway in parliament, or even adopt an MP.

Engaging Corporates

Unfortunately we don’t have the same level of mandated transparency with corporations. The good thing is that they seem to be a lot more sensitive to reasonable social media feedback. If you need to add more detail, a blog post or email to elaborate on a couple of level-headed tweets is a great idea. The key thing to remember is that there are real people with real feelings behind even the most “faceless” social media presence.

Besides, being a troll is a near-certain way to get ignored by corporate social media. Take a look at this classic (did social media even exist in 2008?!) response chart from the US Air Force. Their suggestion for obvious trolls: “Avoid responding to specific posts”.

The other approach to consider is accessing a true inside voice: can you get in touch with an acquaintance employed by the company? Can you get them to see your point of view and work as an ally to foment change? This approach works particularly well for socio-economic or policy issues (as opposed to specific issues with products or services, which you should take through the existing support channels).

So yeah, thanks Koz and Nigel. Like I tell my four year-old: I’m gonna use my inside voice more often. How about you?

 

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