I’ve seen them. They show up on church social media feeds whenever you run an ad or say something bold. They looooooove it when you make vague generalities too so they can show up and jab you with a classic “nuh-uh” and scuttle back under a rock.
But no more. Church communicators and social media managers must learn to identify the types of trolls in order to deal with them accordingly! This guide will help you do just that.
Basic Response Structure
Typically for churches, there’s a good structure of how to respond to a troll attack that keeps in mind that others might be watching. Regardless of what types of words and phrases you throw at the troll, the basic structure goes like this:
Respond kindly and use their name (unless it’s dirty)
Address the issue apologetically
Kindly explain your position as needed
Invite them back to your church (depending on the situation)
Direct to Private Message for further conversation
If the original complaint has cursing or inappropriate content, go ahead and respond normally, but immediately hide the comments on Facebook. The troll and everyone else will be able to see your response but no one else will see the troll comments.
Just don’t be so quick to delete and ban. That’s the last resort. These might be people with legit concerns and we are responsible to love them too.
Types of Trolls: A Spotter’s Guide
Knowing the type of troll you’re dealing with can help you know what types of responses will kill it, appease it, or just make it go away. The following ten species have been observed in the wild and claimed many a wandering passer-by.
This troll swoops in, voices a seemingly random concern, then goes. The criticism usually doesn’t make any sense and the reason is that this troll has the wrong church. Before you lay into someone for critical nonsense, make sure that you’re actually the church they meant to gripe at.
Respond with “We think you may have the wrong church. Sending you a PM (Private Message).” Then message them and ask what’s up. If it’s legit, help them find the right church page. If it’s a confuser mixed with one of the more volatile trolls, send them to the Church of Scientology’s page (jk, don’t).
Just like your disapproving mother-in-law at Christmas, this troll starts with something nice and then twists it into a nice backhanded criticism. “This church is so great but they really don’t care about your hearing! So loud!”
Respond by thanking them for their feedback and inviting them back to the church where they can sit in the back with a pair of complementary earplugs.
The Wandering Grumpus
This troll visited your service and it just wasn’t for him. In fact, it rubbed him the wrong way so severely, that he takes to your social feed to tell you what he didn’t like about it.
Thank him for his feedback publicly and direct to PM. Can’t win ’em all.
The Atypical Gripe
This troll has a gripe or complaint that you know isn’t typical of your church, but may be legit. This is where you need to apologize and do your best to make it right. Invite them to PM
Something went wrong that normally doesn’t. You may need to get a department leader involved to help with this one. Just don’t leave them hanging. It’s customer service 101 and the customer is always right.
The Verbal Rager
This troll launches into a rage of expletives and 4-letter words from the get-go. Respond with an apology for whatever you can that they mention is the problem, let them know that language like that isn’t permitted on our page, then hide their comments or delete the comment. Use your discretion on which. In your response, try to direct them to a PM so you can help, but make sure that a pastor or boss is in the loop. Don’t put yourself in the “troll smash” position without backup.
This troll is calm, but only interested in trapping you in a meaningless (or maybe not-so-meaningless, yet still inappropriate for social) theological debate.
A troll that wants to trap you in a meaningless debate.
Where there dinosaurs on the ark? How come snakes can’t talk anymore? Did Jesus have gas?
Direct them to your beliefs page or a qualified pastor but always thank them for their question and direct them to PM.
You know what you guys should do? Start another campus? Or maybe just offer classes on Saturday. Or maybe the worship team should record an album? Tens of people would buy your Hillsong covers, for sure.
This troll is FULL of good ideas and they can’t wait to use the post about the Fall Fest to tell you about them! They hover in the wings just waiting to help you on to the church’s next great era! The sky’s the limit for the hover-troll.
Honestly, I tend to just ignore these. I know that’s not really the best answer, but what do you say to such irrelevant and unwanted comments? I guess thank them for their ideas and wait for the next one? Help me out here.
Nice feed! Love your content? Me like pictures you!
Obviously a robot randomly complimenting your stuff. Just ignore these unless they annoy you. Deleting these won’t hurt anybody’s feelings because robots don’t have feelings. Sorry, Data, but you’re straight fiction.
The Sniper Troll
This troll has a legit concern and they have kindly, but firmly, nailed you on it. “Hey, your website is super slow and hard to navigate. Are you guys planning to update it soon?”
Yep. Not mean, but not awesome.
Don’t agree and throw anyone under the bus, but let them know that their concern has been passed on to leadership and invite them to PM with any other concerns. Thank them for bringing it to your attention and let them know that you’ll do your best not to repeat the action.
The Rolling Ramble
A rare creature, this troll seems to have fallen asleep on his keyboard while typing because most of his comment aren’t even words, much less coherent sentences. It could either be a bot gone wrong or a spammer from another country with a loose grip on the language.
Either way, best to hide this comment and move on. If it happens again, ban. Or for a good laugh, respond with your best attempt to speak the troll babble.
What species of trolls have you seen in the wild? Let us know in the comments and if anything you’ve done to dispell them has worked. Happy hunting!