Are brand trolls really that scary?Customer service and your brand’s social media presence go hand in hand, but how you distinguish between and respond to genuine customer complaints and internet trolls can impact your online reputation. You’ve likely heard the best practice, “don’t feed the trolls,” which holds true for those looking for a reaction, but some negative comments present an opportunity to correct misinformation or stand up for a bigger cause.

It’s rare that a brand handles itself so successfully on social media that for a brief moment it seems the entire internet rallies behind it. The fast-food chain Wendy’s recently had such a moment when it stood up to a troll on Twitter who challenged its “Fresh, never frozen” claim.

your beef is frozen and we all know it. Y’all know we laugh at your slogan “fresh, never frozen” right? Like you’re really a joke.

— (@NHride) January 2, 2017

so you deliver it raw on a hot truck?

—(@NHride) January 2, 2017

y’all should give up. @McDonalds got you guys beat with the dope ass breakfast

— (@NHride)January 2, 2017

In this situation, it made sense for Wendy’s to respond to the Twitter user because the user’s tweet contained misinformation that could potentially be damaging to their brand. Wendy’s quickly recognized the opportunity to protect its brand and reiterate that it has only used fresh beef since 1969.

This response alone likely wouldn’t have garnered the brand much attention, but in a somewhat risky move, Wendy’s continued to school the Twitter user. The brand could have simply replied with how they use refrigerated trucks to deliver the fresh beef, but instead it embarrassed the Twitter user to the point that he temporarily deactivated this account.

Understandably, many brands don’t want the risks that can come with taking on internet trolls. And for good reason. Yes, having a social media presence has become all but a requirement for brands. Few, however, agree on how to best handle the sometimes confusing attacks that can be leveled at them on any given platform.

The thing to remember with trolls is that while they are inherently negative, they aren’t always damaging to your brand. In fact, Ruth Graham points out in her article for Slate that brands can take advantage of the opportunity trolls can present. She says, “… it strains credulity to think that admakers today don’t prepare to respond to and capitalize on the trollish attacks on their gently progressive campaigns.”

Wendy’s has embraced this method of taking down trolls since the lauded fridge remark — responding to harmless trolls on Twitter has become a signature of its account.

When it comes to social media customer service, your community managers are your first line of defense. Take a proactive approach and include a plan for dealing with negative feedback and attacks on social media as part of your overall strategy. Your plan should address how to distinguish between brand-damaging trolls and legitimate customer complaints and the best way to respond to each.

Two Rivers Marketing recommends the following six-step process on how to effectively monitor and respond to customer service issues and trolls:

Step one: Develop a social media response policy and protocol
Step two: Share the process with your social media team
Step three: Monitor for questions, complaints, and feedback
Step four: Evaluate interactions to determine the best approach
Step five: Respond, diffuse, or continue monitoring (if trolls), per your process
Step six: Assess your response protocol regularly

The reason the articles praising Wendy’s for its original comeback to “@NHride” didn’t show increased follower stats or revenue is the same reason the brand didn’t implode from the Pepe the Frog blunder. When a brand has a successful social media strategy that has a clear protocol for missteps, most mistakes or triumphs won’t make or break them.

About Sharaya Jackson

As a marketing insights specialist, Sharaya spends her days collecting data to deliver valuable insights to our clients. When she isn’t searching for meaning in a world of data, you can find her looking for the perfect candle in the shops of Des Moines. Email Sharaya at