Troll-Herding 101 for Instagrammers

New Tools and Strategies for Instagramming in 2021

By Brenan Sharp

If you want to increase your reach as an influencer or heighten your brand’s sales potential, creating and maintaining an immersive Instagram presence should be at the top of your list. Second only to Facebook as a social media platform, Instagram has over 1 billion active users worldwide and counting. Unfortunately, a fraction of those users seek to sabotage an otherwise useful and effective social media platform in the form of offensive comments or spam. We are talking, of course, about Instagram trolls. 

If your aim is to have 5,000, 10,000 or even a million Instagram followers or more, your social media strategy should also include the minimization of interference from Instagram trolls. If you’re uncertain just how to do that, don’t worry! Whether you’re a startup marketing agency looking to add Instagram to your social media portfolio or an aspiring influencer, we’ll reveal a strategy that outlines what success in troll prevention looks like and the steps to get you there.

Know Thy Enemy

Once thought to be mythical beasts, trolls—at least in the cyber realm—are now an unfortunate reality. The first notion of trolls came into being circa 800 A.D. as part of Norse mythology. They were societal outliers who lived in the caves and mountains of Scandinavia. Local folklore unilaterally deemed trolls unfriendly and deceptive, and they were therefore avoided at all costs by neighboring villagers. Today’s cyber trolls are truly no different. Their “caves” are now a cloak of anonymity in the form of catchy or false user profiles and they seem to exist solely to take any and all attention away from your brand or product. 

Fortunately, Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, supervised a series of revisions in the past year devised to dispense with a troll’s efforts to defame your character. Therefore, Instagram now has built-in features which can help you cut down on the crazy. Comment Controls, Hidden Words and Manage Custom Words are now your new best friends. Read on to learn how to use them. 

Comment Controls 

At last! You are now able to control who can comment on your posts but also who you want to block. For example, you can now allow comments only from your followers, or a combination of the people who you follow and those that follow you. This not only discourages random acts of negative commenting (bots), it fosters you getting more followers because they’ll have to follow you in order to comment. 

To do so, open your Instagram profile on your smartphone (these controls cannot be enabled from a laptop) and follow the directions below. 

  1. Open the Instagram app on your smartphone
  2. Go to your profile, which is accessed by clicking your smaller profile picture at the bottom right
  3. Click the three lines at the top right
  4. Select Settings
  5. Click Privacy
  6. Choose Comments
  7. Tap Allow Comments From
  8. Change it from “Everyone” to People You Follow and Your Followers or Your Followers

Turning on Hidden Words

Perhaps the best news in waging war against the trolls is the newly-added Hidden Words filter, which actually blocks potentially offensive comments. You’re literally just a few clicks away from this newfound freedom. First, go to your home page on Instagram and follow these directions:

  1. Open Instagram
  2. Go to your profile
  3. Click on the three lines at the top right of your screen
  4. Click on Settings
  5. Go to Privacy
  6. Select Hidden Words
  7. Turn on Hide Comments, which will hide potentially offensive comments
  8. You can also turn on Hide More Comments just below it. According to Instagram, this hides even more potentially offensive comments

Managing Custom Words

You’ve now turned on Hidden Words, but what if there are certain specific comments you wish to avoid? Perhaps you’re wanting a similar degree of spam-blocking control you’ve always enjoyed on your company website, such as through spam-blocking lists entered directly in the website’s code or through potent Content Management System plugins such as Akismet. Well, you’re in luck! Certain words can now be blocked from being entered in the comments on your Instagram posts by using the Manage Custom Word List feature. To do so, once again open your Instagram profile and follow the directions below.

  1. Open Instagram on your smartphone
  2. Go to your profile
  3. Click the three lines at the top right
  4. Select Settings
  5. Click Privacy
  6. Choose Hidden Words
  7. Scroll and select Manage Custom Word List
  8. Tap Add to List
  9. Now you may enter specific words, phrases or emoji’s you’d prefer not to see in your comments. For starters, may we suggest entering the poop, water droplets and eggplant emojis here. You may also want to include http, www, https, who, what, why, where, and when to prevent spam, and too expensive, expensive, bad, crap, crappy, bad support to prevent negative reviews.
  10. Separate each undesirable word, emoji or phrase with a comma. 
  11. If you’re already getting troll comments and spam, then simply make a list of what you’ve found offensive and type them in here. 
  12. To turn on your custom word list for comments, find Hide Comments and tap the switch icon to the “on” position next to it. 
  13. To turn on your custom word list for message requests, find Hide Message Requests and tap the switch icon next to it into the “on” position. Now, you’re done!

**Note: To remove an item from your Custom Word List, simply select View List. Tap the keyword you’d like to remove and hit the trash can icon on Android phones or, on iPhone, swipe left on the keyword and tap delete to confirm it.

Additional Anti-Troll Strategies and Best Practices

Okay, so you’ve taken advantage of some awesome new tools to make your life as an amazing Instagrammer so much easier. Congratulations! Now, we’re going to walk you through some additional strategies which should also help you going forward. 

First of all, if you already have or manage an account with several followers and are presently dealing with spammers or trolls, consider temporarily turning off all comments with each new post. Suspending comments could also be done during high traffic times, when trolls are more likely to start commenting. This strategy could be particularly useful during paid campaigns—especially for contests or giveaways. 

Secondly, if you scroll through your followers and identify a spam account, consider blocking it. Sure, each time you do it, you’ll lose a follower, but no real good comes from having a following full of these sorts of accounts. It fosters a lack of proper engagement. Blocking them will mean you’ll only hear from real fans and potential customers that you might otherwise miss.

Thirdly, treat all trolls as spam and block them as well. Do not engage or enter into conversation with them, as they will likely not succumb to reason. Simply block them and afford yourself the peace of mind you deserve from doing so. 

Finally, consider fewer hashtags. Yes, multiple hashtags can be effective at generating sales leads, likes as well as comments, however, they can also attract bots. You can have up to 30 hashtags per Instagram post, yet, in their 2021 Hashtag Guide, Hootsuite recommends no more than 11. Recent reports claim up to 45% of all Instagram accounts are fake, and, of those, several are manned by bots searching for certain hashtags to exploit. If your account is already suffering from comments such as these, it might be best not to tempt them.

Herding trolls can be hella hard! We hope you’ve found these tips from Dia Creative helpful. If you’re a startup or an established company looking for a better social media presence, please consider our services. We make data driven decisions to find your North Star metric, and offer creative marketing solutions as well as content marketing services to help you find more customers, increase conversion rates and grow your company. Contact us today for a free 1:1 strategy session! 

Pop-culture junkie, Brenan Sharp, is the former Social Media Director and Art Director at Maxim.com—for which he regularly wrote, along with Music City News, the Country Music Association, Car & Driver and the ABA Journal, to name a few. When he’s not writing or designing, you can catch him restoring his classic Mustang, or driving it to inviting small town destinations with his wife in tow. 

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