SocialMedia Trolls and Contrarians, Enter at Your Own Risk

A Guest Post By @c_pappas:

I participated in the weekly #SM121 chat (add +1 for every week so next week its #SM122) this week hosted by Peg Fitzpatrick The topic? Trolls and the art of dealing with negativity in social media. Trolls? Contrarians? Huh? Who are these people and why are they associated with negativity? My mind automatically raced to social network bots but that wasn’t exactly what the chat was about.

The Difference between Good Negative and Bad Negative

The key difference between a troll and a contrarian? Intent

A troll intends to do harm to your brand by posting negative comments about your brand, your products and you while a contrarian is most likely to post something negative but in a more thought-provoking manner. Both scream negative energy through and through but one is pure spam and the other is just an honest opinion.

So what do you do when a troll or a contrarian lands on your blog, posts something on your wall or tweets something about you to your followers? My advice? Proceed with caution.

Simple way to weed out a troll is to respond back and challenge their claim. If they are in fact a troll, their brainpower ammo will not sustain the conversation and they will revert back to their original blasphemy. While I would never tell anyone to just delete negative comments for fear someone may see them *gasp*, you should absolutely respond and remove this person’s ability to post in the future once you have stamped them with the troll label.

Now a contrarian on the other hand, I think, is pretty cool. This is a person who has an opinion and is not afraid to use it. Something you or your brand said or did ignited something in them that caused them to respond. Now I don’t know about you, but I write content with the intent to get a reaction and if I get the attention of a contrarian, then I know I said something right (or wrong most likely according to them). And I want them to come to my site because I know a juicy debate will follow.

Social media has opened new doors for all of us. We can communicate freely whether in a positive or negative manner and be noticed by tens of thousands of people in seconds and the same goes for your brand. Handling negativity is no easy feat. You need to know when to edit your audience and when to let them speak their mind and fuel your conversation. It’s a fine line.

How do you handle negativity in social media? Do you treat trolls and contrarians differently?

About @c_pappas :

Christina Pappas is a Inbound Marketing Professional with a passion for content marketing, lead generation and social media. She is an avid blogger at The Content Cocktail which focuses on how to leverage a vendor agnostic approach to lead generation in order to increase conversions and bottom-line revenue. Christina is a marketing communications and lead generation professional who has spent most of her career at B2B technology companies and in the hospitality industry. Her Blog can be found at:


10 thoughts on “SocialMedia Trolls and Contrarians, Enter at Your Own Risk

  1. Just like you, I think contrarians are good to have (if you know how to handle them). They can initiate great conversations, and if everyone can keep up, the conversations will become deeper and more complex. The most important is to make sure that everyone remains polite!

    1. Think of it this way, if you don’t have contrarians willing to join the conversation and put their point of view on it, then you will just have a bunch of redudant commmunity lovers saying ‘I agree.’ I dont know about you, but that gets pretty boring after awhile (although I do still love when people enjoy my posts) and I truly love a good debate. But as you mention here, it must be constructive, otherwise we may have a troll lurking as a contrarian :)

      1. The intention of a true troll is to make other people argue, and then stand back and laugh at both sides. For instance the campaign to arm the homeless (google it)

  2. I don’t write to bring out contrarians, but I do like to make others think and hopefully, everyone learns something. There is a difference in ‘good negative’ and ‘bad negative’ and really, ‘negative for the sake of it’ and tilting at windmills. Your reply to Devon underscores one of the issues that is part of blogging and negativity, the difference in the troll vs. contrarian: intent. Intent will be subjective, tone, context… could be misread. I’m a little unsure of how to comment: it is a FINE line and lately, I’ve seen some posts and comment threads that have gotten out of hand.

    I don’t like to ‘pick on’ people, but sometimes that’s a part of observing and discussing. I do not want to stifle debate or make someone uncomfortable visiting and commenting on my blog – but that’s impossible as everyone will have their own opinions, mileage will always vary. Which is NOT a cop-out BTW, me being more of a pluralist. I’m no fence-sitter, I have my opinions to be sure.. I also try to keep an open mind, see the other side… keep it professional and respectful, always. FWIW.

    1. You are absolutely right that’s a fine line between the two which is exactly why its so hard for bloggers to know who is genuine and who is not. Both have intent – sure. But the intent of their intentions is different (does that make sense? :) ). I dont write to bring out contrarians myself, but if they do pop up in the comments, then I am not going to lurk away from them either. In fact, I highly respect their honest opinion and I like the fact that I got a reaction – but thats just me. Yes, comment threads have gotten out of hand but is that the fault of contrarians and trolls or just the casualness of the network in general?

      1. I too like honest opinion on the issues, on the debate and topic. But when it somehow becomes about the people, that’s what gets to me. I am not naive to think it’s all kittens and rainbows.. but I also not like to read an Machiavellian intent into some things (though I know better and it’s real; see also haters, trolls, flamers).

        Also think we get lax in some cases, forget there are humans with delicate baby feelings behind these avatars. It’s why I use emoticons and jokes, why it takes me so long to comment and tweet sometimes.. b/c I am trying to be careful and not have my tone and intent open to misinterpretation. And it’s happened a few times when I’ve misread a comment or tweet or others have misread mine. I think the more I’ve commented, maybe I mistakenly presume that someone will ‘get’ my sarcasm or what I hope is ‘wit’ and jokes. ;-)

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