First-Person Marketer

First-Person Marketer
Trolls, Haters and Flame War Generals… Thank You

JP Sherman | 7 Sep 2010 10:00
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One of the most difficult things for marketers to deal with is watching their carefully crafted messages and campaigns try to survive contact with the audience. Prior to a marketing launch, there's a lot of work that goes into creating the message, the press release, the imagery and the email to gaming outlets. Once the send button is clicked, there's an immediate, but futile, dash to the sent email folder to make sure, one last time, everything was perfect. Released into the wild, that news item is subject to forces beyond the marketer's control. The savage gamer community comes out of the woodwork to pick apart every word, every image and every perceived implication. These people descend to rip apart your marketing like birds of prey at a Tibetan sky burial. These people are the trolls, the haters and the flame war generals. Their merciless attacks on your work are an essential part of the marketing ecosystem and I absolutely love them.

Understanding Trolls Doesn't Mean Supporting Them
As always, there's going to be some context that surrounds my statement. As a part of a community, trolls create an environment of paranoia, defensiveness and aggression. Any marketer who willfully incites or encourages troll activity needs to understand that communities are not data points; they're people. Feeding trolls ultimately leads to a disintegration of community, increased abuse reports and an inevitable intervention from the ban-hammer. Yet, as these trolls are a part of the gaming culture and conversation, they can give the marketer valuable insight into the competition and the blunt truth about the product.

Surviving Contact with the Enemy: The Demographics of a Troll
There are several types of trolls, haters and flame-war generals, each having their own distinct characteristics.

The Anarchists:
These are the ones who want to destroy and they toss thermal detonators into the conversation just to watch it burn. They're armed with arguments that fixate on a particular aspect of the marketing and monosyllabically bludgeon it to a pulp. They tend to aggressively follow the thread to see the reactions they provoke, then they drop a few more. They cause a lot of collateral damage in the community simply for "the lulz".

The Techno-Trolls:
Armed with precise information on the inner workings of technology, they'll use jargon laden statements to make a point. They'll make arguments measured in milliseconds, frame-rates and pixels. However, what makes them trolls is that they're measuring the world in binary. The product is either good or it's bad. If you enjoy a game or a piece of technology that's obviously inferior, you're wrong and deserve to be corrected.

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