The day you start a business you enter the public sphere of perception. This means that what you do and what you say will be judged by everyone who is listening or purchasing your offerings.
The day you start a blog something similar happens, where every word you publish becomes available to the entire world for all to see and scrutinize.
In my four plus years of blogging now there have been a handful of what I like to call “incidents”. Moments when a particular person has taken offense to me and what I said or did and decided to present this feedback in a public way, by leaving comments on my blog or another blog, or by writing a blog post on their own blog specifically accusing me of something.
Since I can count the number of times this has happened on one hand and I’ve been in business for many years, I can say that I’ve had a good ride so far. Most feedback I get is glaringly positive and supportive, which I truly appreciate. However, we all know that it’s the negative words that hurt the most, so even if they are few and far between, each time I’ve become the subject of a public attack, I’ve felt a strong emotional response.
Attention Is A Good Thing
Let’s set one thing straight. Whether or not you are happy about the reason, whenever you are the subject of someone else’s focus, that’s a good thing. That means you have attention, which ultimately is the hardest thing to gain online. In fact, often the most controversial events, that you may not feel great about, result in a big spike in traffic. People love to watch a fight, it’s human nature. Controversy is a great traffic technique, if you can bear the accusations that will be flung your way.
Anyone who becomes moderately successful and has a public profile, even a big fish in a small pond, will have detractors. The nature of the world is that we all have different opinions and you will never please all of the people all of the time. The more famous you get, the more people will have an opinion about you, both good and bad.
The real problem is if no one is paying attention to you – that’s when something is wrong with your marketing. If you’re doing well and you’re in the public space getting attention, you’re going to need to know how to deal with negative and positive feedback.
At First You Get Emotional
I remember the first time a major incident broke and I was the focus. I experienced what it was like to have a true “hater”. Of course I reacted strongly with emotion and in the heat of the moment attempted to defend myself. What a mistake that was.
Whatever I wrote ended up being fuel for the hater. They could take any word I said and re-purpose it as more proof of whatever argument they were making.
This was a big lesson for me. I learned two important things -
- When you have a hater they are wearing special lenses that see you in a certain way. No matter what you say back to them, they don’t take on board your words, instead they use them as fuel to keep the flame war going. They love that they have your attention and want to do whatever they can to keep you involved and show you how wrong they feel you are.
- The medium of text as a communication tool is weak. Words can be interpreted in so many ways and when you try and use them to defend yourself online, you can waste a lot of time.
The Internet allows people to remain reasonably anonymous, which means a person can go at you in a way they would never feel comfortable doing to your face. Inhibitions are lost, they feel safe typing anything online because they are at home behind a computer miles away from you.
It’s sad, but in a lot of ways the Internet has allowed people to express their “true selves” because they don’t have the typical social conditions where they might otherwise be more respectful. A person’s ego can run rampant, and whenever someone says something they don’t agree with, they can become so attached to their opinion that they become like a pitbull terrier fighting for a favorite bone – they just won’t give up.
How To Make The Most Of A Public Flaming
As a result of dealing with haters I’ve come to the conclusion that you have two options -
- If the person attacking you has a weak argument and they are just saying negative things for the sake of saying them, just ignore it. All they really want is attention, so any kind of response from you is giving them what they want. Move on and forget about it.
- If the person has made a claim against you and they’ve done so in a sensitive place, like a high profile blog or website, or on their own blog that is attracting links from other blogs, or they are someone of prominence, and what they’ve said has enough substance, then you should reply back and defend yourself.
Option one is easy. Option two is rife with dangers, but only if you let your emotions get involved.
The key when replying is to state your position and do so in a mature manner and avoid any personal attacks. What happens in most situations is you get a lot of personal attacks thrown at you, and when you don’t reply with the same, you end up looking a lot better for it.
Maturity is powerful, and when you treat others with respect, even if they are fligging mud at you, then you come out on top no matter what happens.
The only way this can back fire is if you have actually done something that you probably should not have done. This happened to me once when I deleted a comment I shouldn’t have. What that taught me was to let comments that attack you go live on your blog, assuming the comment has some substance (it’s more than just “you suck”) and then use that comment as a platform to defend yourself or clarify your position.
Whenever someone says something negative about you, you should view it as a golden opportunity to demonstrate your value, maturity and strength of character. A person who can take the fire and dish out cool, logical and emotion free facts, wins out.
You know how I know this? Because every time I’ve done it people have emailed me to say I won them over as a result of how I reacted to the comments.
You have to realize that the majority of people are reading and watching interactions, and although they aren’t contributing publicly, they are forming opinions about you based on how you react. When you come across as solid as a rock, with clarity and maturity, without the personal mud fligging, then you win over the silent majority. You may not see this directly because the silent majority are silent, but they are there and they will respect you more so for how you reacted.
Add to this the magnification of attention that comes from controversy, and you will see that having someone go at you can be a hugely beneficial, as long as you don’t get emotionally involved and respond with negative feelings.
Clear As Mud
One thing to point out is that all opinions are subjective, and what you think is right or wrong is not what others think. Your job is to stay true to yourself. Whether or not someone agrees with you doesn’t matter so much as how you share your point of view. How you communicate is more important than what you communicate.
It’s helpful if you avoid judging anyone, especially based purely on text on a webpage. That is where most of the haters go wrong. They read words, make a judgment call about that person based entirely on those words, become emotionally attached to their own opinion, and then start attacking.
Remove sweeping judgments from your own reaction and state where you are coming from without giving any heat back, and you come out on top.
Let Your Friends Defend You
One last point, and this is ridiculously powerful from a business stand point. As you become more well known and you help more people, your “fanbase” will increase. It’s your loyal customers and true fans, those who have benefited most from their interactions with you, who are you best warriors to go into battle for your side.
There’s nothing more powerful than having one person attack you, and then have your army of followers rise up to defend you. While you should avoid strong emotional responses when it’s you in focus, your supporters can use more emotion because they are a third party. Their passion to defend you reflects positively, as long as they keep the discussion above a certain standard (personal attacks don’t help).
This is powerful social proof and let’s face it, it feels good to know that other people care enough about you to care about your reputation, enough that they are willing to spend a few minutes to type something to throw their support behind you.
If you really help a lot of people, then you don’t even need to defend yourself. All over the entire world wide web, in forums, on blogs and websites, your supporters, who are part of your tribe and thus feel a sense of being attacked when you are attacked, are out there defending you, even when you don’t know it.
This is a great situation to be in and only comes when you help a lot of people so much that they feel a sense of association with you to the point that any words against you are like words against them. Attack the leader of the tribe and beware, the whole tribe will fight back.
From a bystanders point of view, seeing that someone has a legion of raving fans, who are willing to come to your defense, demonstrates massive credibility. If you’re running a good business, over delivering in service, and looking out for your people, then they will look out for you when you need it.
Thanks again to all my raving fans who have risen to my defense over the years – you know who you are!