I’m a reluctant mentor. Being in the industry a while means people ask you things. The first questions are “Where do you get clients” and the follow ups tend to revolve around content. Either the logistics, the inspiration or the confidence to put myself out there.
“I could never do it, what if people hate / laugh at / deride my blog / vlog / photo.”
My stock response is people are lovely, our community is wonderful and people are supportive.
It still is, but having been on the receiving end of a bit of drama, I’ve a feeling more than a few of you will have been put off publishing your thoughts on any matter whatsoever. And it is perhaps naive to think we still live in the same community I lived in 3 years ago when there were only a few of us, the work was more plentiful and the status was higher. In these 2019 times perhaps unlimited support isn’t a given.
I know I’m a good writer – but being good doesn’t necessarily equate to 100% approval rating. Over the years I’ve sporadically written blogs for publishers, on Linkedin, on Medium and now I’ve got my act together and am going to be updating this bad boy of a blog more often.
And most of the time my words are very nicely ignored.
9/10 of my blogs I would say fall into the “ignored” category.
We are all busy and my personal thoughts and arbitrary opinions are scrolled on by, and that is expected and normal and actually fine. Fundamentally I am driven to write something because I want to and it does my business some good to have a post from this month at the top of my social media profiles.
But sometimes… ah …. just sometimes I post something that resonates. That connects. And that is addictive and magical and that connection will keep me going through another 20 or more likely 50 posts that are in the “mostly ignored” category.
And then. There is the one (or two now) that don’t get ignored. That resonate. But in completely the wrong way. People hate what they have read and the comments start coming in. How dare I put that thought on paper in that specific way? “Its badly written!” they cry.
- Well “no honey” you want to say with maximum patronisation, “it isn’t.” Or,
- I’d love to see your blogs on anything more interesting than “Look at this facebook video ads specification update. How will you be using it?” Or,
- “Would you have said this to my face, you coward.”
Don’t do any of the above.
Then text a friend and have a laugh about it. Humour is what got us through the Blitz so tap into it and see the funny side of the fact that a thread full of people are saying you are a terrible writer, manipulative, dishonest and (said with maximum patronisation) they expected more from you.
When your follower numbers are in free-fall, laughter really is the best medicine.
Read the comments after you’ve laughed about the situation. Do they have a point? Or are they just haters hating?
Haters and pointless trolls tend to leave one liners often including swear words. Ignore them and use the mute /block function on anyone without a profile picture or just being abusive. But if someone has taken the time to slag off your blog in paragraph form then you need to actively listen to what is being said.
The first rule of customer service is that the customer is always right. Now these people aren’t right – but they do need to be told they are heard. You can’t mute and block people that just disagree with you. But neither should you say “this blog I believed in enough to publish is totally wrong now I’ve read your 50 words / I was high as a kite when I wrote this / the dog ate my common sense.”
Respond with a “I hear you. I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing, why are you so upset” comment. The classic is “this is interesting to hear, please tell me more about why you think its badly written / I’m a terrible person / this is a disgrace / you won’t be wasting any more of your time listening to me?” (Delete as appropriate).
And the response needs to be pretty quick. You haven’t got long to access support and tap into your resilience and blitz spirit. You need to be visible and engage with each and every comment.
Decide your course of action.
Well now you have a choice. Once you have engaged sufficiently to understand why people are caring enough to spend their time typing paragraphs telling you why you are a bad writer slash person you can decide to
- Stand firm
- Edit the blog to reduce offence being taken
- Delete all evidence
Now which one of these choices you make depends on the situation.
In one case I’ve stood by my words, addressed each comment and sheltered for the storm to pass. As more comments come in, more reach is gained, and there is something called a “herd mentality” that kicks in. People see a thread with a lot of negative comments and like to add that they are also outraged.
Negative comments beget more negative comments.
Keep replying with consistency and a touch of humour but steer clear from patronisation or belittlement and you will see the rise and fall of outrage and the thread run out of steam.
In the more recent controversy the article that so offended was edited by the 3rd party publisher. This is the right thing to do if you can see this was a pre-meditated attack. That somewhere, off in the world of dark social, outrage had been stoked and then a pack attacks as one. The peak and trough of comments feels different – it comes all at once – there isn’t an organic build, and there is repetition of language throughout the posts from the individuals commenting.
Editing here is the only sensible option. It’s 1 against 100 (you hope – you have no idea if a group of 1,000 or 10,000 has been provoked) and with those odds getting through the harassment needs to be prioritised.
Appeasement is very much the name of the game.
Edit wisely in direct response to comments pointing out your horrible writing. Be aware of the law, don’t change the meat of the article, and don’t change your opinion – only language.
The downside to the edit option is the pack smells blood. You will never edit enough to appease. Edit to reduce offence, edit to make language as benign as possible (even if ridiculously boring to read), edit until the main triggers to the outrage are taken out, but then you have to stop engagement with the post and leave comments unanswered. Draw a line and leave the thread to run out of steam.
And the final option is to delete the blog. You can of course do this but if it has been shared then you are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. I would rarely advise this, and have never done it. Screenshots last forever and it is a total admission that what you wrote was wrong which puts you in a sticky spot if things were ever to go further.
There is a cost to blogging, to putting your opinions out there. Your time, your emotional energy and your reputation. It’s worth looking at the ROI, and do make sure you cost in that 1 in 100 blogs are going to piss people off and you are going to waste around 3 working days sorting it out.
There is a school of thought that says it makes business sense to produce blogs to provoke negative opinions. You get the same reach as those that provoke positive opinions and it’s easier to do.
It’s easier to get a group to hate a blog than love a blog.
But as someone who has dealt with the fall out I’d not recommend it as a marketing technique. It’s exhausting, unpleasant and makes you really dislike your fellow man! I’d also say from my (hopefully limited) experience, you can’t tell which blogs are going to hit a nerve. Some I’ve been worried about – for instance about the gender pay gap – have been totally fine, and others that have offended I wasn’t even monitoring as I thought they were so benign in terms of content.
I had a lot of really lovely messages supportive messages after my most recent hated blog. And I thank you all very much for them – I needed them and they meant a lot. But there was a message that was well meant but has stayed with me.
“We all f*** up” it said “Don’t worry about it and keep going.”
I’m not sure I did f*** up. I accept a lot of people did not agree with me, did not like what I had written. But it doesn’t follow that I was wrong, that my point of view is invalid, that my words were ill-judged, that I f***ed up. The blog I wrote on LinkedIn remains 100% unchanged and I stand by it. I believe there are online scams, I believe our community are targeted, and I believe you shouldn’t invest in anything that isn’t on your business plan. I know most of you won’t have a business plan and that makes you vulnerable to scams and herd purchasing. I’m not jealous, I’m not dishonest and I’m not manipulative.
I’m screaming at an injustice and I hate that maternity discrimination – the root of why we are all chasing our tails in the gig economy – has reduced us to this.
Just because you don’t like a blog, doesn’t make it wrong. In fact when that many people don’t like a blog, I’ve hit a nerve and am probably more than a bit right.