The Worst Brand Trolls on Twitter? Marketers.

Twitter TrollsTwitter trolls. If you manage a brand’s Twitter profile you’ll have come across them. People who do nothing but snipe at a company for their activity and generally have nothing good to say. As a brand on Twitter, it’s part of the game.

But do you know who the worst brand trolls are? Marketing people.

Trumped up, holier-than-thou ‘marketing managers’ and ‘social media managers’ and ‘digital marketers’ with a handful of followers who think they know better. Well here’s news: you don’t.


This week, I ran a real-time campaign for a client based upon a detailed insight into and understanding of the mindset of Tottenham Hotspur supporters following the transfer of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff thing; we made a real effort to understand the sentiment around the transfer, and to research and test the concept among fans.

That said, I’m long in the tooth enough to have known well in advance that it wouldn’t appeal to everyone and that some people wouldn’t get it or would dislike it. And that’s fine; what I’m concerned about with our ideas at BOTTLE is that they resonate with the client’s core audience. I knew this would.

And so, among the many hundreds of positive responses to the activity, it was no surprise that there was a very small handful of detractors. No biggie. But what disappointments and infuriates me is that, without exception, each of the trolls works in marketing (according to their Twitter biogs). The very people who should understand trolling behaviour are the ones who practice it. I’ve seen it time and time again. And I’m kind of sick of it.

Valid Criticism v Trolling

Now I’m not having a dig at anyone questioning the validity of another’s ideas. Being critical is fine, and we all do it. We all appraise, critique and sometimes laugh at the marketing efforts of brands and companies within our own offices. But what we don’t all do is to direct tweets like this at brands:

The Worst Brand Trolls on Twitter? Marketers.Two brands in one tweet, huh? Bravo. This particular person has tweeted over 8000 times and has just 311 followers. To use the marketing hashtag of @daciauk, #youdothemaths.

Why do we in the marketing industry feel the need to act so damn superior to others? What gives the plonker I illustrated above, or you, or me for that matter, the right to criticise and troll brands on Twitter just because we work in the industry?

Or maybe I’m taking this too personally? What are your thoughts?

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Posted by Paul Sutton

  • Gemma Storey (@gemma_m_storey)

    I think constructive criticism is valid, and that brands which engage in especially obnoxious marketing deserve some light ribbing now and again – but trolling is wrong no matter who or what is the target.

    All that’s been achieved here is one person making themselves look a bit weird – I mean, if you don’t like the Tweet just unfollow!

    • Paul Sutton

      Totally agree with you, Gemma. Criticism is valid and, like I say, we all do it. But why go to the extent of tweeting the brand(s) in question to tell them?! Ignore or unfollow. Done.

  • Geoff Livingston

    I have to agree with you, Paul. I can’t help but think of about 200 people that are just vicious when it comes to critquing marketing online, myself inclued in the past. However, spend some time inside of brand and receive enough of these comments, and you find yourself running away after a while.

    • Paul Sutton

      Thanks Geoff. As I say, we all critique in private – it’s human nature and that’s fine. It’s the public nastiness of some people that gets me. There’s just no need for it. Trolling behaviour of all kinds sucks.

  • Michele Price (@prosperitygal)

    Funny how this one is a back and forth thing – raising my hand high saying I have gotten annoyed with brands and mentioned them. First goal is recognizing behavior. BUT defining it as trolling when you disagree with their actions? Is the point of being in social media to be having real time conversations with people and brands? Be mindful, which behavior is it?

    I do agree with Geoff ( and you), too many marketers have made it a point to rip brands in all their campaigns – as if that would cause them to magically want to hire said marketer, snort.

  • Gloria Huang (@riaglo)

    I’d say that the example you provided was somewhat troll-y. It’s all in the way you say it, after all; the post could have easily been worded differently to come across as constructive criticism, rather than an attempt to provoke anger. Either way, I’d comfort myself with the thought that it only reflects poorly on the person who wrote it – if I were looking to hire a marketer, I certainly wouldn’t choose one that would sit around publicly snarking at other brands. :)