Yesterday I witnessed the piling on of someone who commented on a Facebook post by a friend of mine. It started out innocently enough… kind of, as my friend posted a graphic relating to politics. She included a one-line statement, it was pretty innocuous, but left itself open to interpretation.
That’s diet soda!
A couple people responded in agreement with what the image showed. But… wait for it… pretty soon someone else responded who wasn’t totally feeling what everyone else was saying. It wasn’t that she disagreed with the image as much as the “implication” that it meant “all” people like her… which no one had actually said. Continue reading →
Last week I wrote a post addressing the topic of being controversial when it comes to a business blog, and how you might not always want to go that route depending on what the topic is and how it might impact your business. I’m realizing that I should have taken that further because it’s not only a blog that you have to worry about.
Back in 2008, I was new to Twitter. It was a presidential election year, and emotions were running high. Early on I wasn’t sure who I was supporting for president, but I did know one thing. I was ecstatic about Barack Obama having the opportunity to win the Democratic nomination for President; in my mind, having a truly viable black candidate was something I never expected to see in my lifetime.
He won the nomination and got to run against John McCain. Then the hate started against him, and it wasn’t pretty. Being against a candidate with different political views is one thing; you always expect that, whether you want to get into it or not. But things went way further than that. It got racial, hateful and ugly. I know because I saw a lot of what was streaming on Twitter at the time. I hadn’t really gotten to the point where I was perspicacious in who I was following; I was trying to build up numbers.
The thing is that on Twitter, at some point it’s not just the people you’re connected to, but the people they’re connected to as well. And things blew up. I started deleting people from my stream, not because they had a different political point of view than mine, but because of what they were saying about Obama in racist terms; have to call it out as I see it.
What was shocking to me was that some of the people saying these things were fairly well known in online circles. This was before celebrities had embraced Twitter, so the big names were all internet people, some people in other fields here and there, but mainly internet stars. These were people who taught others how to behave in their own space, and here they were, failing in public.
You know what happened? A lot of those people went away in 2008 because of their hateful words. People saw what these people were really made of and decided they didn’t want to work with these folks or buy products from these folks. The internet celebs said that they should have the right to their opinion, but you find that every time you decide you should have the right to your opinion, no matter how hateful it might be, you forget that others have the right to their opinion as well, and their right comes with the option of spending their dollars elsewhere.
At this point in my life I’ve decided I don’t want to deal with that kind of controversy. Therefore, I remove anyone whose political positions are against mine in all social media spaces. I don’t swing too far when it comes to things I believe in either, so I sometimes kill my connection with them also. I’m a fairly balanced guy who doesn’t like extremes unless I’m pulling for my favorite sports teams.
What this means is that there are business opportunities I could be missing, but it also means there are business opportunities those people could be missing as well. Almost no one gets to spew vile things in one minute and conduct business as usual in another once word gets out.
Case in point as a closer. There was a guy I knew some years ago who used to like to make videos to express his point of view on things. The topics weren’t extreme but his language was. He did this on a personal blog, and to him it was just a bit of fun.
Until one day one of his clients came across it and didn’t like the content that was on the blog. He immediately closed his account, and as people who are upset with things often do, this guy called a few other people and told them about the blog. Two others decided to disassociate themselves from this guy because they didn’t want to take the chance that one of their customers might come across it and think they approved of this behavior.
The guy immediately tried to fix things but it was too late. He shut down his blog, removed all his videos from all the places he had them, and worked for the next year trying to replace the business he lost. I lost track of him after a few months as he ended up shutting down his website as well, so I never got to talk to him again, and had to rely on someone else to give me an update.
Cautionary tale that I wanted to share here. As I always say in many places, if you’re not ready to back up your position for everything you might want to say, you just might want to keep it to yourself, or at least don’t let it get onto the internet.
In the past I briefly talked about the controversy surrounding Chik-Fil-A. I’ve talked about controversy and having to deal with it often. I figured this was as good a time as any to talk about freedom of speech and controversy as it pertains to business blogs as opposed to general blogging.
When businesses are thinking about being controversial, they shouldn’t be thinking about being controversial on social issues such as politics or religion. Those types of things can take away from the reason you created the blog and your business as well.
Unless those issues are what your blog is about, it’s best to stay away from them; at least on your business blog. If you feel the need to express your opinion about other things, it’s best to create a personal blog, whether you use your real name or not, and go that route.
However, negating the benefits of going against the grain, which is what controversy is all about, as it pertains to your business, means you’ve giving up an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. For instance, on this blog, I’ve taken some contrary views to the norm as it pertains to backlinks. All that does is set me apart from others who do some of the same type of work I do and starts a discussion point. In a way, it also establishes me as a free thinker, someone who sees things from a different perspective, and potentially helps me get clients who have some thoughts that lean my way.
Using another example, let’s say that I do kitchen remodeling. Most people in that industry recommend granite counter tops because they’re sturdy and pretty, and they come in multiple colors. If I wanted to be like the majority, I’d also advocate granite counter tops.
However, I’ve seen a few people that advocate slate counter tops, saying they’re also sturdy, easier to clean, won’t stain and that you can even cut on them without worrying that you’re going to cut them up. So, maybe someone else starts writing about the benefits of using slate instead. It goes against the norm, but you can bet that someone out there doesn’t like granite and likes reading something where an expert in the field has a much different opinion. And let’s face it, even those that advocate using granite can’t say slate is horrible, even if it wouldn’t be their first option.
Now, I don’t know whether slate is popular or not; I’m just using this as an example of how it might be controversial within the remodeling industry because everyone else goes in a different direction. As long as it’s related to business, controversy could end up being a good thing. Now, if you were advocating paper counter tops, that wouldn’t be controversial; it would be crazy, and you’ll never work. So you have to pick your options based on your own business.
Final point. Freedom of speech means that everyone can say anything they want to, no matter what or where it is. It also means that others can disagree with you however and wherever they feel as well. Hopefully it only stays at a verbal level but that’s the thing about some controversial topics. You’re probably never going to have two social media consultants coming to blows over whether Twitter is better than Facebook, but social issues are a much different animal. That’s why it’s best to avoid those topics where your business is concerned.
So, have you started blogging yet? Come on, be controversial, say something!
Brendan, Brendan, Brendan… gone so soon after rising so high… I guess stupidity can follow someone long into their future can’t it?
For those of you who aren’t up to speed, a couple of weeks ago Mozilla, the company that puts out Firefox (my favorite browser by the way), promoted Brendan Eich to the CEO position. In 11 days he was gone, the victim of what I’m going to say is public stupidity in giving money to support the California proposition against gay marriage back in 2008. The uproar was immediate I guess because, being out of the news loop as I sometimes am, I didn’t know it had occurred until the day he’d resigned.
Of all things, I came to the news because of a press release someone put on on a dating site called OKCupid that I saw on Twitter (yes, one of my favorite news sources) trying not to take credit for promoting the initial protest against the hire (but the gloating was obvious) and then reading that not only were a lot of people up in arms about the hire but many people within the company were as well. And the statement made by the head of the board certainly didn’t sound like the normal company speak lines of “We’re sorry to see _____ go…”, instead coming out like “We were wrong, and thanks for helping us see the light.”
What was interesting is that the people who normally could have cared less about anything that happened in tech that believed as Eich did came out saying that this was a clear violation of free speech and that it was setting a dangerous precedent. That once again I felt it was time to straighten everyone out about our free speech laws in this country shows that folks aren’t paying attention to either myself or what’s really going on. I touched upon the topic of being controversial in 2011 and early in 2012 when I talked about the courage it takes to be in social media, and Holly & I touched on the topic when I interviewed her later in 2012, which means I haven’t talked about it in more tha 18 months; my bad. So, let’s get this clear once more, since it really can’t be stated enough times.
In the United States, everyone has the right to express their opinion. What everyone doesn’t have a right to do is state their opinion and not have someone else disagree with it if they choose to. It’s the reason why so many people can love the movie Frozen (count me in) and a few can say they think it’s overrated. It’s the reason why so many young girls love Justin Bieber to the end of the world and others hate his guts (I don’t have an opinion either way).
What everyone has to realize is that, as I stated in the “controversy” article, if you’re strong enough to stand behind your convictions, say whatever you want to say and deal with whatever the consequences might be later on. If your opinions keep you from getting a job later on because they’re counter to what that particular employer wants to deal with, so be it.
Sorry kids, but that’s not the same thing as discrimination, where you don’t hire someone for what they are. No one asked to be black or female or gay or disabled or bald or heavy or… name something.
When we decide to say whatever we want to say, if it’s going to irk someone it could impact your life; that’s just how it goes. I take stands on things all the time, but I try to word my missives in a way that they’re not specifically insulting to anyone. If they take offense I’m ready to deal with it. But I don’t have masses of people hating on me because I’m not stupid.
What’s stupid? When you can donate money to a cause you know might hurt you later on and don’t do it anonymously, doing it so you can write it off in your taxes which, if you’re a public official or a public CEO, are allowed to be seen by anyone. Brandon, really?
Here’s a bit of family history. My grandfather was a registered Republican for a major part of his life. He never voted for a single Republican in his entire life. He owned an auto repair shop in a Republican city and knew he’d never get any business if he’d registered as a Democrat. So he did what he had to do to survive, kept his mouth shut even amongst his friends, and voted his conscience. He wasn’t ready to be controversial until he shut down his business, and no one was the wiser until he had nothing to worry about. Freedom of speech? In his day, even with the Constitution? Please!
Freedom of speech is a legal reality; freedom of consequences is a true reality. If you’re big enough or important enough or passionate enough of stupid enough (Facebook drunk pictures; really folks?), those things can come back to hurt you. I know someone who literally changed her name and waited a year for it to sink in so she could start applying for jobs under that name, in hopes that her political views under her other name would become obscure, as she is a liberal fireball but lives in a conservative area. How many of you would want to go through something like that?
Let’s not be too timid to have an opinion but let’s also not be naive. We all know when we’re about to say something on purpose that someone else might not like. If you don’t want to deal with the potential heat then don’t say it. If you can deal with it, and you’ve thought about your future, then go ahead.
Still, as the video below will prove, I believe there are times when you must speak your piece; it’s just how I roll:
There’s a young lady from Australia whose Instagram page I used to follow named Sheridyn Fisher; that’s her picture to the right. I think she’s very attractive and for awhile I enjoyed pictures of her and her adventures, as well as her pets. She was once either a Playboy model or almost a Playboy model; I’m not quite sure how that all worked out but it proves that I’m not the only one who thought she was attractive.
She’s also an entrepreneur of sorts. She has a line of swimwear, which figures, and along with modeling some of the images herself, she has other models who will show off some of her wares. That’s nothing to be mad at either I must admit. However, one of the models on one of the Instagram posts decided to share a feeling of hers that, in retrospect, was one of the most idiotic things anyone has ever said while pursuing a career. She said it made her sick to her stomach knowing some men over the age of 40 were looking at pictures of her and felt they were all dirty old men.
Dirty old men? For looking at some pictures that she willingly took to show off her body wearing swimwear? Dirty old men? You mean the early part of the major demographic of 35-54 year olds that most advertisers want to reach because they’re the ones that have the most money per capita to be able to afford to buy, well, maybe not women’s swimwear but calendars, magazines, or whatever else pretty women might be a part of?
Yeah, I was offended. Sheridyn didn’t say it but if she didn’t remove the comment before I saw it and she didn’t say anything in response to it either. Truthfully, I doubt she’s ever looked at her Instagram account because if she was anything like me and what I talked about earlier this year lamenting the lack of moderating comments on sites like YouTube and Instagram, allowing trolls and such to ruin the overall experience for everyone else. Sure, I do understand that if you get 5,000 comments it might be hard to get rid of some of them but something has to occur here and there, or so I feel.
I thought about this as it relates to blogging in general. Sometimes we take controversial opinions on something and that’s fine if we’re ready to deal with people not liking it. I do that from time to time when I’m in a state where I just have to express an opinion; nothing wrong with that and I think more people should think about doing something like that from time to time. Remember the saying “if you don’t stand for anything you’ll fall for everything”.
However, being controversial is something most people will do on purpose. What about doing things that might be subconsciously turning people away, things you really haven’t thought much about and one day wake up to the reality that you might be offending a part of your audience in some way that you’ve never thought about?
A few nights ago I was checking out the videos of someone I’d just discovered on YouTube. I thought she was a breath of fresh air and decided to check out some of her older videos. I came across one called Apology and was drawn to watch it. In it, she apologized for some things she said regarding people on welfare because she didn’t think before she said it.
She was upset because a lot of people dumped on her after the presidential election because she decided to support the loser of the election (no, I ain’t saying his name lol) and, being one of those people who shoots from the hip, went over to the dark side because a lot of people on Twitter baited her for her open support there.
She ended up taking a major hit in subscribers and her popularity for awhile. It seems that even if you came from nothing and have made something of yourself that people don’t think that gives you credibility to start castigating everyone else because they need assistance from the government. I didn’t watch the video that offended so many people, but I did see that it got nearly 15,000 dislikes and only 1,100 likes and, being someone whose income comes only from YouTube, it seems that she got the message that she’d been insensitive; thus the apology.
Some people forgave her after a bit while others moved on, and she’s now back up around 300,000 subscribers or so and has moved on with life. But she’s kind of a celebrity and kind of ditzy cute; do you think your own business, website or blog could survive such a faux pas? Think about it; how often have you said something that came across as mean and been called on it? How many times have you written or posted something that someone else might see as sexist or racist when it wasn’t your intention to do so?
If you’re in the United States, all I have to say is Paula Deen for you to understand what I’m saying here. So many people were shocked by her admission, even though I’m not one of them. That she might have thoughts like she did & said the types of things she’s said didn’t surprise me in the least. But her public persona was something else, and it all came crashing down when this came out about her. And, if you watch the link above, which goes to a YouTube video I created about the situation, what you’ll see is that I believe her biggest mistake was waiting until someone else broke the news instead of being proactive.
Still, the point of this particular article is to ask you if you’re taking care to not be potentially controversial when you’re not trying to be, or not potentially being inflammatory and insensitive when you are trying to be. I left a lot of people in my dust during the 2008 presidential election, and a lot of people who lost their minds on Twitter before and after that election lost a lot of business and a lot of money as well.
There are many stories where a slip of the lip at the wrong time has cost someone their livelihood. How careful are you being in trying to make sure that person isn’t you?