Take It Tactically

From Jason Falls:

It’s easy to say you don’t care, but most people do. Social media is an opt-in activity. If you don’t want to read a blog, follow on Twitter or connect on Facebook or LinkedIn, you don’t have to. But when someone who is reading or following stops … It hurts a little. You wonder why. You question your value. You take it personally.

Even just a little. And that is part of what makes social media human. Sometimes it hurts.

Note: This isn’t a response to Jason’s post as I don’t necessarily think he is complaining about this phenomena as much as he was simply pointing it out. It just serves an excellent jumping off point for the following rant…

There seem to be a lot more questions regarding Social Media lately. These conversations examine not only the tactics, but the practitioners themselves. As these questions continue to grow and amplify, the conversation continually seems to get so derailed by feelings that it feels like we’ve lost the ability to have a decent debate about a space we all care about.

Now, there are those who say that we should avoid naming names, that we should only question the ideas and not the people behind them. This is crap, plain and simple. When you publish on the web, you are to some extent creating a brand and, like it or not, brands can and should be questioned.

No one is going to spare the feelings of their cable company; no one is going to spare the feelings of a local eatery. No one is going to spare your feelings if you take the risk of putting your thoughts out there. It it doesn’t do you any favors if we treat you differently just because you decided to put your name on the door.

You can choose to ignore criticism. You can dismiss people as “haters”, but in the end you’ll miss out on the same opportunities you are trying to share with your audience to learn from the good, the bad and the ugly of what people are really saying about your brand. Just like your customers, you need to stop taking it personally and start taking it tactically.

If people care enough to talk about you, try to care enough to listen, even when it’s hard. Sure, critics needs to learn to be more respectful, but we rarely get to choose the method in which feedback is delivered. And in my experience, both personally and professionally, the most impacting feedback is rarely positive and is never easy to hear.

If someone really crosses a line, of course you should disregard them, but for the most part, there are valuable and occasionally valid insights that you many end up ignoring. I get it. It sucks to hear the negative. It sucks even more when there may be some truth to it.

Like it or not, if you hit publish, you’re a brand. Even if you happen to be a brand that no one cares about. Start separating feelings from your online identity. Start taking the same approach to your business that you often suggest yourself. Once you take a tactical approach to the personal, it will be a hell of a lot easier not to take things so personally.

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Michael, although I cringe at the thought of exposing myself to the kind of criticism that gets lobbed at those who post regularly in the social media space. I think that’s what holds me back from blogging more regularly myself. However, your points are valid and eloquently stated.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      I can understand the impulse! It is so easy to be misunderstood or to just be unclear in your thinking. I still find the attempts at publishing worthwhile. A little criticism never killed anyone :)

    • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

      Allen, it’s so worth it though. I’d love to see you blogging more often. The feedback can really change your life for the better, even when it’s negative. Sometimes it took years, literally years off my learning curve. I would say that less than 1% of my interactions involve the type of negative feedback that actually hurts my feelings. Most of the time, it’s helpful information.

      And think of what it says about you that people feel you’d care enough to listen to an opposing viewpoint about yourself.

  • John Falchetto

    Agree 100% Michael we own our ideas if we come up with stupid lame stuff then we need to be called out on it. Exactly like you did in the past few weeks. Start separating your self worth to how many subscribers you have, am I a better now then six months ago when nobody subscribed to my blog? Don’t think so, let’s start giving importance to what matters and I know this doesn’t mean what our Klout, Rt, comment, follower numbers are. I just moved my blog and I had to burn a new feed, basically start from zero. I am not going to cry over it, it’s called life

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      I hope people care enough to tear me a new one if and when I shove my foot even deeper into my mouth than usual :) 

      Like the idea of starting again from zero. I’m simply starting from zero, but the idea of breaking something down and starting again is always exciting… nerve wracking, but exciting. Especially as it forces you to forgo the “importance” of many of those less important metrics.Didn’t know about the feed change… of to resubscribe!

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    Haters gonna hate. ;-)

    As @allenmireles:disqus mentions, all valid points. It’s all well and good sending your thoughts out to the world; but you better be ready for non-fans as much as you want advocates. No-one’s so good that everyone loves them.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      And heaters of course are going to heat. As the wise and almighty @geoffliving:twitter once said, if everyone agrees with you, you’re note talking to enough people

      • Anonymous

        I’m just a curmudgeon, Michael. Just saying ;) Thanks for the shout out, though!

        • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

          You and me both… Besides, what’s the point of having bears at the zoo if you can’t poke em…

        • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

          You and me both… Besides, what’s the point of having bears at the zoo if you can’t poke em…

    • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

      If everyone loves you, there’s something wrong. First thing that would come to mind is that your audience is too small.

  • http://shadboots.com Shad Boots

    I haven’t had any criticism (that I know of). That needs fixing, clearly.

    I’ve always thought of criticism this way: how the hell do you get better without it? When I was younger, I asked my mother to review my writing. She would only ever say encouraging words and I, in my charming way, begged for criticism. Unfortunately she stopped reading my writing from then on, because she couldn’t trash my writing like I wanted.

    Criticism is vital to the process of bettering a craft. I knew it growing up and know it now. It hurts every time, without fail. But you have to have it.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Sometimes the problem is actually the word criticism… half the time it is just feedback and we are being defensive :)

      You have to find the people who can be brutally loving to your work, otherwise I completely agree with you. You don’t improve.

      • http://shadboots.com Shad Boots

        Brutally loving… I have to use that in the future.

        You’re right, though. Criticism, as a word, tends to make the situation more personal than it is. Unless it was a personal attack (ad hominem, to get technical), I rarely take it that way. Use of rational faculties, right? Another of those lost arts.

        • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

          What’s this rational thing you speak of? I’m unfamiliar with his work.

          As for the attacks, maybe it is a few years worth of handling customer service, but I just usually dismiss the nonsense (even the super angry once, but I guess you have to when you’re getting paid to do so) and try to figure out 1) What the person is trying to say 2) What part of their point is valid and 3) What if anything can be done to resolve it. Tend to try and take the same approach to criticism of myself. It happens for me, but hurt feelings just tend to waste good energy.

          • http://shadboots.com Shad Boots

            I was speaking more to those who deliberately attack my character with no apparent reason (other than to attack someone). It’s personal, and I know it is. That isn’t to say that I don’t dismiss it, I do. But that doesn’t stop it from being personal.

            Umpiring in my high school days taught me a great deal about handling attacks. I will never work that job again. Ever. I did it for three of four years (it didn’t get really bad until the last year).

          • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

            I figured as much, but those are easiest of all. 1) They are saying something stupid, 2) There is no point 3) Nothing can be done :) Easy!

            You may never do it again, but something tells me that umping will serve you well in later years and future situations.

          • http://shadboots.com Shad Boots

            It already has, believe me. I worked for a couple months at CVS Pharmacy (as an intern Pharmacy Technician). The drama and tension in that place was unbelievable. I got through it primarily because of my previous experience as an ump. It helped me separate work from the rest of it.

            I’m sure that it will continue to pay dividends. It’s one of those jobs; you loved it for a time, came to hate it, then realized what it did for you and were grateful for the opportunity.

            And, yes. I truly am all over the place with what I do.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Sometimes the problem is actually the word criticism… half the time it is just feedback and we are being defensive :)

      You have to find the people who can be brutally loving to your work, otherwise I completely agree with you. You don’t improve.

  • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

    When I first started my very first business newsletter online, I thought about what would make me different than all the other freelance search folks at the time. And the one thing I didn’t see was an open policy on criticism. In every newsletter, way back then, I’d encourage people to point out my mistakes, down to typos. Then I published them in the newsletter.

    Man that was a great learning experience. I wouldn’t do it now because people nowadays treat the web as this space where they can treat people much more harshly than they would in person. And I can get overly sensitive (not a bad thing in and of itself but my actions/thoughts following those occassions make it hard for me to work efficiently.)

    But another great thing that came out of that was that my subscribers also became a lot less shy with positive feedback, and helped me tailor my business to their needs with their criticism. Even if you don’t Agree with your critics, it is such a mistake to ignore them.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Shame things like that can’t exist without people abusing them. Gutsy, I wouldn’t do it, especially with my chimpanzee like grammatical skills… Love how opening yourself up to the bad also encouraged the good. Such a mistake not to listen to feedback, a real missed opportunity for most.

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    You know, it just hit me – the title of this post could be how a military commander speaks dirty to his wife… #jussayin’ :)

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      That was the original post, but then I thought better of it…

  • Cheri Allbritton

    I’m not sure why but as I read this post it made me think of brand name vegetables versus the generic label brand. No one wants to be generic when they can figure out how to be a preferrable brand.