Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 18, 2011 9:35 PM

The 6 Types Of Twitter Trolls

As great as Twitter is, there are many people who use and abuse it to the point of absurdity.

Wikipedia defines a "troll" as "someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion." While Twitter definitely has people like this engaged in the online social network, I've decided to expand the definition (sue me) to nefarious, self-involved types of people on Twitter that, ultimately, make people collectively groan in disappointment. You know, people who - to be blunt - very annoying.

The 6 Types of Twitter Trolls: 

  1. The "Calling You Out" Troll. Too much self-promotion on Twitter can be a bad thing. While some people are very successful at packing their stream with self-involved chatter, it takes a classy and fine balance to get the self-promotion right. Let's face it, while Twitter is a great communications channel, it's also a great tool to self-promote, which allows others to learn more about you and what you're all about. The problem is that The Calling You Out Troll won't let even the hint of a self-promotional tweet float by without making a snide remark.
  2. The Freeloader Troll. Just because I have a Blog and Podcast that offers a lot of information for free, it doesn't mean that I am not entitled to make a living. As an agency owner, my time is paid for by the clients that we serve at Twist Image. Furthermore, when I signed a book publishing with Grand Central Publishing, it was understood that I would work hard to sell as many copies of Six Pixels of Separation as possible. Not everything is free in this world, so if you join and follow people on Twitter for the sole purpose of trying to score some free stuff, by tweeting it out for the world to see, you're a freeloader.
  3. The Link Jumping Troll. It's amazing to see how many people retweet other people's links without even clicking on it to see if it's good and/or worthy of sharing with their own social graph. It seems to me that individuals do this in the hopes of getting the attention of the person who tweeted out the link in the first place. Everyone likes their content to be retweeted (it's very flattering), but there's no real flattery if the person who retweets your link does so without even checking to see if the link is valid. You may be wondering how someone would know if The Link Jumping Troll is doing this? If you publish a 500-word Blog post and it gets retweeted five seconds after you tweet about it, odds are that person never even looked at your content.
  4. The Public Shaming Troll. "Hey, did you get my email?" You have to love tweets like that. Have these trolls never seen the movie, Swingers? One communication channel works just fine. You don't need to leave a voicemail, then email, then Tweet, then message someone on Facebook to see if they got your voicemail. You just need some patience. On top of that, when you tweet a message like that in Twitter, it is very akin to a public shaming. It's like the troll is purposefully trying to call you out and get you to respond faster.
  5. The Brand Jacker Troll. You have to love and admire this special breed. These are the individuals who have a gripe with a brand and then spend every waking hour responding to everyone else's customer service issues with a tweet like, "I'm so sorry to hear about your problems with Brand A. Did you happen to see what Brand B did to me?" While it's a clever way to drive more links and attention to your own personal cause, it's kind of like asking out your friend's girlfriend... while they're still dating.
  6. The IRL Troll. Do you know how many times someone has cancelled a meeting IRL (In Real Life) only to be found out that during the allotted time they were on Twitter? I'm also a big fan of actually being on a conference call with these types of Trolls and seeing them tweet while they're supposed to be paying attention to what's happening in the meeting. These people seem to think that Twitter falls outside of the real space time continuum, and that it's improbable that anyone else would have a Hootsuite window open to see who is actually working and who is busy futzing around on Twitter.

Yes, there are the real spammers too or those who follow and connect on Twitter and then have the most unrelenting barrage of daily and weekly requests as if you were blood relatives. You see, it's sometimes easy to forget that you're connecting to people and not just to a keyboard. Without the context of having to walk over to someone you don't know, look them in the eyes and try to make a real connection, Twitter can give people a strong sense of false courage. The majority of people I connect with are caring and interesting people. This majority of people on Twitter are just trying to build connections and bridges, but there are a lot of trolls out there who really are manipulating the platform in an attempt to make it bend to their own, personal, will.

Now, all that's left is to figure out what to do about all of these Twitter Trolls?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Todd Henry
    Mitch Joel

    OK - can't resist. There's the "Too Deep, Too Soon" Troll. A brief first interchange about a trivial topic or link - just like many other Twitter conversations - followed quickly by a "can we connect by phone to talk about my job/life/career? Follow me so I can DM you my number" tweet. Yikes.

    Reply
    • Posted by Karen
      Mitch Joel

      Todd - that made me laugh because you named it very well. And it is so true. To use another dating analogy - that's the guy who asks for 4 more dates before the first date is an hour old.

      Reply
  • Posted by KOJO BONTI- AMOAKO
    Mitch Joel

    Hello Mitch,
    Thank you for breaking it down, so we know what we are dealing with .

    Reply
  • Posted by Bill Laidlaw
    Mitch Joel


    To some extent of course it comes with the territory. As I read this post it made me think of Darren Clarke yesterday's Britsh Open winner running the crowd gauntlet to the first tee for the start of his last round. Just outside the ropes fans were handing him trinkets to sign right before the biggest 18 holes of his life. Some (mega-trolls?) he turned down, there are always a few who have no shame.

    Reply
  • Posted by steveplunkett
    Mitch Joel

    "Hey, did you get my email?"

    @(see #4 above) "let me look"

    [delete]

    @(see #4 above) "nope.. but we have pretty good spam filters.." try again..

    [delete]


    lol...


    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Words of wisdom for sure on your Troll defining post. What about the "to cool for school Trolls". They would never lower themselves to use Twitter for anything but organic soap boxing, personal inside jokes between cliques. Twitter for business...that is blasphemy.

    In my world, I use it for fun, for commentary, for opinions, for evangelizing people, places AND for businesses I like. Yes, I said business - *gasp*

    @downshiftingpos And @4linledlearning

    Reply
  • Too bad that the folks that should read this probably won't. Oh, well, I guess they're never morph from troll to self actualized grown ups. Peace to you!

    Reply
  • Posted by khaled
    Mitch Joel

    nice post I liked it,

    Reply
  • Posted by Trish
    Mitch Joel

    Although I do feel for you with how these types of twittertrolls could definitely be annoying to someone in your position, I'm not entirely sure the majority (or maybe just me) can relate completely. For example, someone tweeting while in a meeting isn't necessarily a twittertroll specifically, moreso than just a crappy audience/team member. Or snide remarks from call-you-outers/public shamers seem more like immature fits of jealously or impatience, unsympathetic for an industry leader with a large following. And what I think is most debatable is that Freeloader trolls are perhaps not really something most are offended by, where I feel the vast majority of users on twitter are in fact consumers of free content verses dedicated creators of it, such as yourself. Why would they not share something they seek to begin with? Naturally, It's a vicious circle. 
    Personally, I enjoy curating my feed (usually) with many interesting pieces of creative work sprinkled with absolutely asinine tweets, retweets, memes and pictures to friends. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but if anyone finds me particularly troll-like...then I guess that rather large, intuitive "unfollow" button under my name should suffice, yes? 

    Hey...u mad, bro? 

    Reply
  • Posted by Rosemary ONeill
    Mitch Joel

    You had me at the Swingers reference. Actually, that movie could support an entire blog post...hmmm..."this party is dead...let's blow."

    Reply
  • Posted by Kimberly Hauze
    Mitch Joel

    I'm not sure that these challenges are any different than in-person interactions, rather they just take place in a different format. Who hasn't been at a conference or a meeting and had similar interactions?

    I think what we do about it is the same thing we do in our face-to-face interactions. Honesty and respectful dialogue in 140 characters. Refusing to let poor or disrespectful behavior go undetected. Stating our position with respect and clarity. Asking for what we would like to see instead.

    I think social media usually mimics our in-person behavior. Sadly, sometimes people feel their online activity gives them license to be less genuine and more rude than perhaps they would in person. That says something about their choices. We can choose something different in how we respond.

    Reply
    • Posted by HarrisAceJackson
      Mitch Joel

      Yeah, and if you point that out (and you happen to be in the out-group) god help you! I find the whole bullying and exercise of power trip exactly the same as in High school. Definitely an area in need of some serious sociological research!

      Reply
  • Posted by Liz
    Mitch Joel

    I think there is a special level of Troll Hell for Auto-DMs. The difference is is they are not public so only the receiver has to put up with them. They seem to be making a comeback at least in the people I'm following.

    Reply
  • Posted by Alison Richards
    Mitch Joel

    And how about the combo types? Hey, did you subscribe to my blog yet? Here's the link just in case you didn't get the email. http://alisonrichards.com

    Just kidding... sort of.

    The problem being that sometimes I find myself innocently posting a comment opinion... I'm guilty of interrupting a stream occasionally. But as in the centuries old debate on Freedom of Speech, everyone else's style is NOT akin to mine.

    The same way I cringe at religious posts or political rants, others may be offended by my Environmental protectionism and Global activism.

    That's also why we have spam filters. So that we only have to weed out the junk from real people, not robots too.

    Forgive the intrusion. :-)

    Reply
  • Posted by Yolande
    Mitch Joel

    Totally 'nailed it'. I was thinking only yesterday how this is an 'easy fix'. It's as easy as unfollow and block. Time to get rid of the toxic people and accounts you're not interested in.

    As you're well aware you might have 100 active users and if half of that is what you're not intersted in, it is a waste of space. Spend the time on getting the quality not the numbers.

    Same goes for LinkedIn accounts, I just read a great post earlier on, on how online communication has the same tactics as real life.

    Reply
  • Posted by Eugene
    Mitch Joel

    This gave me a great laugh this AM!

    I love your blog, btw.
    Cheers.

    Reply
  • I shared a Detroit Free Press article yesterday on Google+. Someone commented critically that I was "sayin' stuff like this about..." the subject and attributed the article's content for my own, adding "there are better things to do with your time." How would you categorize this? An arrogant, insulting, guilt tripping, ignoring cite troll?

    Reply
  • Posted by Topher
    Topher

    for #6, all I want to add is "scheduled tweet"

    Reply
  • Posted by Davey
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I thought about retweeting this, but then had second thoughts since I didn't want to branded The Link Jumping Troll. Excellent article and I throughly enjoyed it.

    Reply
  • Posted by tudza
    Mitch Joel

    So the problem with the brand jacker is that they are complaining about some other product? I can agree that is not kosher.

    However, a company that uses Twitter to resolve customer problems probably has no outlet for complaints, so if you use Twitter to complain about your problems to other customers of the same product, I say more power to you.

    Reply
  • Posted by Van Hire UK
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for sharing this information with us. Hope this will be known by everyone & these twitter trolls will help in reading the true information. These trolls will prevent from abusing posts. I liked this.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rose Offner
    Mitch Joel

    Funny and true. Is your book in this same writing voice because I like that voice/style edgy, humorous, and authentic.

    Rose Offner
    author of,
    "Journal To The Soul,"

    Reply
  • Brilliant blog Mitch! I'm so glad that you wrote this blog. LOL I'm laughing so hard as I can put a check mark by each one. It's exactly like Swingers - these type of ppl have no life but social media - many cannot create content and find complicated & sophisticated ways to mooch off others. Since social media for the most part is faceless - many feel & test others to see if they use them as a door mat. It's hilarious the audacity some exhibit! or try for that matter.

    Keep Rockin'!
    Sebastian

    Reply
  • Posted by Gail Gardner
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with much of this post; many people just like to complain or feel duty-bound to be the saviors of the world protecting others from anything that even remotely smells like marketing or self-promotion. (They may want to consider whether they are a tad bit too controlling. P.S. You can't protect everyone and that isn't for us to do anyway.)

    Personally I don't have a problem with number four - in fact I ask people to let me know on Twitter (or Skype or IM) that they've emailed me because email is NOT as reliable as people think it is. Many emails go astray, or into spam or just disappear into what some used to think was ether.

    While occasionally I take a stab at educating trolls if I feel they might just be newbies, on Twitter as on forums and elsewhere it is usually best to simply 'not feed the trolls'.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Not sure how I missed this one, better late than never. I've got my own list of peeves, the trolls I see such as the Uber Self-Promoter, the ones who tweet and RT their own stuff like it's the second coming. The Link Jumping Troll is another of my personal unfaves, the blind RT without reading (or catching a bad link, heh). As to what to do: share posts like this in hopes it buys someone a clue, or unfollow if that's the only option. FWIW.

    Reply
  • Posted by HarrisAceJackson
    Mitch Joel

    interesting take on the subject; I haven't been on twitter that long but I have noticed some pretty bizarre behavior (on the political threads at least). You have your twitter police from the various factions waiting to jump down your throat if you don't agree with them, or worse yet their idols. There seems to be a parallel network where rumors and nastiness is spread, so you don't really know what the heck you've done wrong (if anything) before they start throwing around the word TROLL.

    I thought twitter was about open expression and freedom of speech, and maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. Yes there's a lot of business going on, but for a social user that's like having to watch commercial between your favorite shows (tweets)- its there, sometimes it interests me sometimes not, but that's definitely not the reason I'm on twitter.

    To tell you the truth I could care less how many people follow me; of what non commercial value is it to have over 1000 people tweeting me, when at most can only scan a few without spending my whole day on twitter.

    maybe its the wrong venue for what I want

    Reply
  • Posted by Judith
    Mitch Joel

    I haven't been using twitter that long (yes, I have been living under a rock in the middle of a forest) but I've seen these types of users around. I guess I'll take Gail's advice and not feed the trolls.

    Reply
  • Posted by ZenTroll
    Mitch Joel

    Okay this list is a failure due to the fact that most of these types of people are not even trolls. Let's start with the supposed "freeloader troll", if people want free stuff they are entitled to try and win it. An internet troll is there for their own pleasure and amusement which they find in bothering people and hating certain things publicly with or without a good reason. Yes the public shaming troll is a real type but the brand troll does not exist at all on the internet. The IRL troll is an actual type of troll but they do not act like that. Your list is about 35% correct on what trolls are.

    Sincerely~ Zentroll

    Reply
  • Posted by gjml
    gjml

    "The Freeloader Troll", second sentence, "Furthermore, when I signed a book publishing with..."

    Reply
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