As more healthcare brands develop a presence online, adverse events embedded in patient comments are no longer their only concerns. Companies are also grappling with postings by web trolls, as well as the rise of misinformation and fake news, which can be particularly strident around health issues.

We asked those in the industry how they deal with trolls on social media. Respondents from healthcare marketing, patient advocacy and more answered via email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Here’s a compilation of their best practices and strategies:

“Internally, I reduce disruption of stakeholder morale. Externally, I address the actual comment.” — Dina Emde

“Typically, I tend to ignore negative comments and indirectly and subtly address them by posting something positive about our event. I also like to retweet positive comments about the event from KOLs. Basically, focus on the positive instead of the negative and your followers will, too!” — Kerston Powers, HMP

“I take them for what they are — people needing attention. That’s it. I let them live their life and I laugh a little bit when I read some of their nonsense and lunacy. If I don’t like what they say I keep scrolling and realize that my life doesn’t stop because of one crazy thing someone said once online.” — Ben Patton, Brandsymbol

“Social media can be used as a tool or weapon, depends on the brand or person welding it. Too often brands, react emotionally versus understanding that not every single person will agree with you. By staying open-minded, your brand will encourage sharing versus an un-engaged audience. Also, never underestimate your brand’s voice. With data supported stances, your brand can join conversations positively by offering beneficial, fact-based content instead of sitting on the sidelines. Before posting, always ask how will this benefit my audience. Lastly, understand that people try to lure a brand into a harmful conversation with emotional attacks. Stay posed.” — Kristin Mesick, RP3 Agency

“We’re always curious about culture, and trolls bring to light different and diverse perspectives we otherwise might not have considered. So it’s a learning opportunity, at the end of the day!” — Christa Lombardi and the DeVries Global team

“We are launching a 24/7 social media community management offering staffed by our health educators which are made up of nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals in order to tackle this problem head on.” — Philip Storer, Snow Digital

With data supported stances, your brand can join conversations positively by offering beneficial, fact-based content instead of sitting on the sidelines

Kristin Mesick, RP3 Agency

“We sometimes see several detractors band together to address their concerns by consistently commenting on a company’s social media posts, whether or not it’s relevant. We use data and experience to deal with these often complex situations on a case by case basis.” — Missy Voronyak, W2O

“The first step is to assess whether the account is a troll (someone dedicated to disparaging others) or a detractor. We also evaluate the influence of the person commenting, and the number of followers doesn’t always give the full picture. At W2O, we use our MDigital Life database to assess the number of physicians and valid accounts following them.

“Hard as it might be, we find if you don’t feed the trolls they usually move onto another topic. If it’s someone who isn’t a troll but has a critical, yet valid, question, we work to potentially address that concern.” — Eileen O’Brien, W2O

“Remember the words of Taylor Swift said; “Haters gonna hate!” 😛 Jokes apart, best way to deal with a troll – don’t fuel them, respond with facts objectively. don’t let them make you angry or emotional.” — Arkkane

“Anti-Trolling Tactics: 1) Comprehensive community guidelines 2) Monitor everything 3) Hide immediately 4) Block if necessary.” — Ross Fetterolf 

“I think this just amplifies the need for us to be persistent with our advocacy work. We advocate to educate! Our stories are not to shed light on us but on the cause itself. The cause is the voice and we are an echo.” — Carine El Boustani

“My response depends on circumstances. If comments are clearly abusive & personal attacks, I usually block & move on. If they’re the result of miseducation, I respond w/facts & may try 2 engage. If directed at a community member, we have a problem. I protect my people.” — Melissa VanHouten

“It’s a chance to educate, realize your strength, and then give more power and energy to people who are willing to be kind an caring. For every troll, there are 100 better interactions.” — Mila Clarke Buckley

“I always ignore and block.” — Jody Quinn

“Trolls have agendas. One of them being to shift your focus away from your mission in Patient Advocacy. Don’t give them the power by responding.” — Tiffany Kairos

Trolls want a response, don’t give them it

Eileen Davidson

“Happens a lot with me…. but I just ignore it… I know that isn’t as easy as it sound for some.. but I realize if someone has taken time out of their day to troll, then they don’t deserve the time it takes for me to worry about it… I’m living my life and working on myself, for me not anyone else.” — Josh Steele

“I ignore it more now than interact. If it becomes a problem, I hide or delete the comments.” — Charis Hill

“Trolls want a response, don’t give them it.” — Eileen Davidson

“Block and ban, I don’t have energy for that, and neither do my followers.” — Sarah Reilley

“I will start by hiding their comments. They don’t know their comments are hidden. If it gets really bad then blocking is there.” — Melissa Nerdy Talwar

“When it comes to Trolls, I’ve asked my followers to not engage them and to tag me on the comments. From there I ban them from the page and then go to their profile and block them.” — Kristal Kent

“This is my specialty. Using the hide/block/remove button without acknowledging them is the most effective course of action in my experience.” — Kat Leena

“Hide. Block. Repeat. *after I learned (actually took effort) to NOT take it personally….*” — Brynja Eirdis Chleirich

“Ignore them or be near a charger because they won’t stop once engaged.” — Derek Canas

“I had my first one this week and I engaged to explain things. They were just argumentative and rude for no reason. Upset me and some of my followers. So decided to ban and then block them. My community doesn’t have the strength to deal with it, so I think I’ll adopt a banning policy for unreasonable or inappropriate comments in the future.” — Char Schoeman