The increase in fake profiles on social networks must be taken very seriously by public and private organizations, which could see how their credibility, forged by years, can disappear in the blink of an eye. That is why experts recommend that organizations include protocols to deal with trolls in their communication plans.
In the case of these fictional characters, company community managers should keep in mind that trolls will always try to maximize their exposure. Under this premise, the first great rule “is not to feed the troll”; that is to say, one should not argue with him, much less give him exposure, because his objective is to make the situation bigger and bigger.
However, this does not imply that it should be ignored, but that the best thing to do “is to kill it with a ‘silver bullet’”. It is a devastating response that ridicules the fictional character, that is viralizable and that, at the same time, generates free publicity for the brand or product and that discourages the troll from continuing to bother.
“Through a strategy like ‘storytelling’, with success stories, testimonials and evidence from real people, it is possible to counterattack an uninformed gossip-type message coming from a profile whose veracity is not known in most cases ”, said Roberto Mesén, an expert in storytelling. Currently, the hiring of “bots” or trolls can help increase the followers on social networks for an organization, or they can be part of marketing strategies to highlight a brand compared to the competition.
However, they can also be used for defamatory purposes and misinform to hit the competition, so, given the negative connotation of these characters, their use for a commercial strategy will not always be well regarded, says Oscar Solano, Creative and Commercial Vice President of Shift Porter Novelli. “Let’s see an example. If one or more of these fake accounts publish that X person got an insect in their food at a particular restaurant, immediate damage is done and many of those who see those posts will never go back to that place”, says Miguel Pérez, Director of Cybersecurity at Cenfotec University.
Estimates from Facebook and Instagram suggest that up to 80% of social media accounts are fake, while in the case of Twitter, around 18% of profiles are known to belong to trolls. Precisely, one of Elon Musk’s premises prior to buying this “microblogging” network was the eradication of “ghost” accounts, which mostly respond to political, social or religious motivations, according to Marvin Jiménez, an expert in cybersecurity of the College of Professionals in Informatics and Computing. “In the event that it is an organization that seeks to affect the image of the competition, in addition to exposing itself to charges for libel, slander and defamation, it is linked to unfair competition practices and the consequences will depend on the nature of the economic activity that the company develops”, adds Jiménez.
The recommendation becomes more relevant if it is considered that cyberattacks against companies have increased considerably in recent years. And it is that the consequences of these new “communication paradigms” could also lead to risks in cybersecurity, since these false accounts could be used by hackers to carry out crimes related to fraud, theft of personal information and identity, as well as the dissemination of malicious software, according to Martina López, ESET computer security specialist.
Platforms such as Meta and Twitter have made efforts to make the account creation process more rigorous, as well as the attention to explicit complaints from those affected by messages classified as direct offenses or offensive content, which are filtered.
5 signs to detect a “troll”
There are signs that could expose a false profile, specialists explain:
• Suspicious profile photo and/or username- They do not appear to belong to a real person and may indicate that it is a fakeaccount.
• Infrequent activity- A fake account may have very little activity, or on the contrary, a sudden and unusual movement
• Suspicious friends and followers- A fake account may have a very small number of followers, or a considerable number of friends who do not appear to be real people.
• Suspicious posts- A fictitious user may post content that does not seem consistent or doesn’t make sense.
- A fake account may include links to untrustworthy or credible websites.