What happened: At the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, activist artist Jani Leinonen introduced delegates to a new kind of social media troll. The Corporate Troll is a unique breed that includes campaigners or artists who use social media to challenge a company’s ethical practices in creative and disruptive ways. To tame their trolls, brands usually try to silence or ignore them. But Leinonen suggests that when dealing with Corporate Trolls, brands should take a different approach: listen, learn and respond.
What this means for brands: Instead of viewing Corporate Trolls as adversaries who need to be shut down, brands should use the criticism to initiate change and self-regulation. Popular businesses and brands are under constant public scrutiny, so when Corporate Trolls stir up a social media storm, people pay attention. With eyes glued to phones, TVs and computers, people eagerly wait to see how brands react—or don’t react to their trolls. When brands acknowledge trolling that receives a lot of media coverage, they show people they are aware and that they care. Listening to well-founded criticism humanizes brands, and when brands respond thoughtfully and take action, people remember. On the other hand, brands that ignore criticism appear to be out of touch. When brands try to silence trolls, people may think those brands have something to hide. Brands can’t control their trolls, and that’s OK. What matters is that brands do control how they respond to them.