Have you ever been afraid to say or write something because you feel someone will trash you on his blog? Are you quick to respond to a complaint, without investigating, because the complainer is getting particularly loud on Twitter? The squeaky wheel gets the grease, for sure, but sometimes those wheels aren’t squeaking because they’re in need of something. Sometimes they’re squeaking because they want to see you squirm. Sometimes it’s more a power complex than a need to get something done.
Some people feel that if they’re outspoken and not afraid to take on others online they’ll be regarded as a hero. The problem is, lines are being crossed. For example, that company you’re calling out on Twitter every 30 seconds? Have you tried calling them first to rectify the situation first, and if you did, what happened? If they tried to work with you and fix the problem, but you still had an issue, did you call them again and let them know? Are you giving them a chance to make it right? Does someone who is willing to work with you really deserve a public place of dishonor?
I think too many people are taking their online presence to mean they have some sort of power over the rest of the world. That they can use a sort of social media blackmail to get what they want and trash anyone they want. I also think the Internet, something that once encouraged free speech, is now discouraging the same. We’re so afraid of damaging our reputation or seeing bad things about us online, that we’re willing to give in to harassment and bullying. Brands are feeling especially vulnerable as they want to embrace bloggers, but don’t want to fall victim to bad publicity if they don’t launch the right kind of campaign or upset a particular group of people.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t speak up against things we don’t agree with. Indeed letter writing campaigns, petitions and boycotts worked wonders back in the pre-Internet days (and still work wonders now.). However, like everything, how we get results is all in the delivery. How we want to be seen by our peers is up to us. How we want to be seen by potential clients or employers is up to us. How we want to achieve certain results, is up to us.
Using Your Power for Good
Social media wields a bit of power, for sure. The people who are successful in this profession use their power in a good way and wouldn’t think of saying to anyone, “Hey, I don’t like the way you operate. Do this my way or I’ll expose your past online or publicly trash you until I get my way.” There are ways to discuss unattractive situations without causing damage to yours or another person’s reputation. Use your power for good by:
- Write a review listing pros and cons in a non-threatening manner.
- Discuss a bad situation without pointing fingers, naming names. or making threats
- Launch a public awareness campaign that does more to raise awareness for a cause than it does to pin blame.
- Call to see how to work together to rectify a situation rather than starting a public humiliation campaign.
One thing I noticed is that when I got my rant on every day, people sort of wrote me off as someone who thrived on negativity and drama all the time. So my target of the day was exactly that. When I achieve a sort of balance, people are more likely to take notice when something doesn’t sit well with me. It’s very rare that I’ll call someone or something out, so when I do maybe it’s not written off as a ploy for traffic or comments.
I think there are ways to get our point across without making threats or trying to damage someone’s credibility. Those who use their power for good know how to do this.
Using Your Power for Evil
Most social media professionals don’t threaten to use social media to blackmail, bribe, out, or harass others. We like our jobs and care about our reputations. We know that if we’re constantly seen as online bullies who will write about anyone who disagrees with us or even people we don’t like, we can lose business and take a hit on a reputation. Now, of course, some might think, “Well I don’t give a crap about my reputation. I’m going to write that blog post anyway.” I suppose that’s their prerogative. I wonder though, how much more successful would they be if they took a positive approach. And by negativity and positivity I’m not talking about honesty v. dishonesty. We can be honest without being angry or abusive.
- People who are afraid to comment on a particular topic in a forum or blog because they’re afraid they’ll be called out for something as silly as a typo by others.
- Bloggers who gather up screen shots from a competitor’s early years in order to throw in his face & cause him to lose traffic and credibility.
- Brands who give in to bloggers whether they agree with them or not, simply because they don’t want them to write anything negative.
- Brands who trash entire advertising campaigns because a single blogger threatens to rally up the troops and cause a ruckus.
- Commenters on forums who research other commenters and expose personal details in order to humiliate them
There’s a difference between speaking out on a situation I may not agree with and threatening to cause damage to a person or business. There’s a difference between wanting a positive community but encouraging said community to pile on to any commenter who disagrees. There’s a difference between having a bad experience with a business or brand and seeking results, and launching a very public, very negative campaign.
We shouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves and we shouldn’t be afraid to go about our day without the worry that someone will attack us online.
What to Do if Someone is Threatening You with Social Media Blackmail
If someone threatens to write about you or say unpleasant things because you’re not going to do things his way, you have several recourses:
- Let it happen. You can do damage control later or not, but it might be more of relief to get it over with than to be at someone else’s mercy.
- Go tit for tat. Perhaps you have something on the other person too. But be forewarned, that sort of pettiness does more harm than good.
- Beat them to the punch. So you blogged something years ago and changed your mind and a competitor is threatening to throw it back in your face? Blog about it. Say “yeah I did this, but so what? That’s not how I am now and everyone who knows me, can see this for what it is.”
- Do it anyway. So you’re releasing a product a competitor or top blogger doesn’t like or approve of. So what? He’s not the only one. If it’s a good product and you have a positive campaign, it will speak for itself.
- Let it go. The negativity isn’t worth it.
Social media yields some extremely powerful tools. It also empowers us to use our voices and create conversations, even about things we don’t particular care for. This can be something amazing, or it can be a disaster. These tools and our voices also can lead to some extremely negative situations. By all means, use your voice to get results – just remember… a positive voice tends to yield positive results. Threatening someone with public humiliation doesn’t do either party any good.
How will you use your social media power?