23rd August 2017

Trolling on the internet; The good, the bad and the ugly

A troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/)

is a person who sows discord on the Internet by upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, rude, or off-topic messages in an online space with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion often for the troll’s amusement.

I was rather shocked to see the mess that the National Lottery has gotten itself into from the recent #Represent campaign, which has been hijacked by online trolls.

The main source of my shock was the fact that we have seen a very similar thing happen to Walkers crisps just months ago in May. Are brands ever going to learn that trolls are a very legitimate threat to online activity?

Now, let’s just uncover the problem here. First; leaving automated content in the hands of the internet is a big risk to take.

The National Lottery asked users to retweet its #Represent campaign post, which was celebrating the success of the British Athletics team following their good showing at the World Championships. After users RTd the post, an automated bot would create a thank you tweet featuring an athlete holding up the users’ Twitter name, thanking them for their support.

A lovely way to show support to British Athletics, right? Nope. That’s not how the internet works.

Hundreds of trolls seized the opportunity to create a stir online, changing their names to repugnant figures or using offensive phrases to cheat the automated and evidently un-monitored system.

The problem here is not necessarily the automation; it’s the lack of understanding shown towards what could go wrong. Trolls are people brands really need to understand.

Trolling, when done correctly, without abusing, I must add, is a real art – a method brands can use to achieve cut through online. Take Wendy’s in the USA, for example. The kings of trolling.

Wendy’s’ has gathered quite the reputation online, with users even tweeting them directly, asking the brand to ‘roast’ them, in a trend similar to Reddit’s r/roast me thread.

Wendy’s certainly isn’t afraid of taking on rival brands, either, with McDonald’s and Burger King often being on the receiving end of some good old internet shade.


It’s something we have had real success with for our clients here at Tangerine with Pizza Hut Restaurants, taking on the footballing twitter scene to great success.

Understanding who is talking to you, and what they are trying to achieve from engaging with you, is key. With the Football Twitter scene, for example, they were clearly trying to show us up for RTs, so what better way to get cut-through online than to use their platform to showcase our TOV and get some fantastic engagement in the process?

In the end, sometimes you just have to troll the trolls.

By Nathan Youd, Junior Planner