You’re A Douchebag: Social Media Name Calling Or How I Learned To Love My Inner Douchebaggery

Posted on July 9, 2010

You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here.

You’re A Douchebag: Social Media Name Calling Or How I Learned To Love My Inner Douchebaggery

By Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)

The empty suits that lead most companies are highly adverse to negative feedback, and that is unfortunate. With social media that knee jerk reaction cripples the effectiveness of a marketing organization. And it is going to get worse for those who shy away from the inevitable name-calling and disapproval that social media significantly facilitates.

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When you launch a campaign and someone writes an angry blog post pontificating why you and your company should have been killed at birth, and how you have defamed everyone, living and dead, most companies will terminate the offending campaign with extreme prejudice. Burying it in the backyard under the cover of night.

Being Offensive Repels Our Customers…Or Does It?

I get called “colorful” names from time to time. The funny part is I rarely, if ever, know the person saying it, or have I had any interaction with them. They see one of my tweets or read a post from my blog, and quickly tell their social network what an a-hole I am. This is the Internet’s version of flipping someone the finger while driving: something that people never have the guts to do in person. These drive-bys happen often enough to me and my blogging peers, and I am really small potatoes. I suspect that the Chris Brogans and Guy Kawasakis of the world get this by the truckload.

So why is that relevant? Anytime you say or do something in a public forum, no matter how insightful or well meaning you are, someone is not going to like you or what you said. If you’re a business someone is not going to like your campaign, ad, or latest product.

Your Momma Is So Ugly That…

So, is it worth being provocative, creative, or interesting and possibly offending one person in a 100 so you can speak with the other 99? Yes, it is. It is the cost of communicating. Besides, the Internet is fully stocked with bags of crazy. You just can’t avoid it.

For spending my time blogging and Tweeting I get to meet some of the best social media and communications minds in the field, and converse with readers who educate and make me think. For me, the occasional wince I feel when reading groundless or mean-spirited potshots, as opposed to valid criticisms, is totally worth the reward. And it should be for your communications and marketing efforts too.

Got Lemons? Make Lemonade.

What if it is more than a few naysayers tossing poop bombs at your brand? If you get a stream of negative comments you might have an incredible opportunity, if you are willing to take what is being said to heart.

Motrin did a web commercial that many felt equated motherhood to a fashion statement. The gist being that wearing a baby sling made you look like a “real” mom, but it hurt your back carrying the little ankle-biter around: “We feel your pain. Take Motrin.”

When bloggers and the Twittersphere started to take them to task, Motrin enthusiastically fell on their own sword, and removed the offending ad. It was replaced with a bland apology. The incident quickly faded into a case study for social media nightmares.

Yikes! They Want To Talk To Us

So, let me get this straight: The very moms that Motrin identified as important, and spent time and money to reach out to, wanted to talk to them. What did Motrin do? Motrin shut their ad down, went running from the room, ending the dialog. Why?

If your CEO embezzles the pension fund, barbecues puppies in a YouTube video, or talks about the impending race war during their next press interview, swift action and apologies all around are very appropriate.

However, the common refrain from those offended by the Motrin Moms ad was, “You just don’t get me!”

Face The Music And Engage In Conversation

What if Motrin had left the ad up for a little while, listened, responded, and created a dedicated team to facilitate a dialog around their concerns?

The team could:

  • Express its sincere concern

  • Ask for help in understanding the issues

  • Seek guidance on what they could do better

  • Share back what they were learning

  • Develop deep relationships with key customer influencers

  • Take action to create communities around the core issues that emerge as important to those moms

You Can’t Buy That Kind Of Marketing

What a freakin’ bonanza! Sure, some moms are going to tell you that they wouldn’t pee on your heart if it was on fire, and then disengage. However, those who stay around for the conversation will often become brand champions after they feel truly heard and see concrete results based on their feedback. Too many companies are squandering these opportunities.

So, before you commit corporate hari kari with a dull butter knife, ask if there is a golden opportunity in having a conversation with those who are upset, and by doing so nurture brand champions in the process. Can you take a little uncomfortable disapproval and in the process win new fans? Or are you going to run away and cry when someone says your Motrin Mom dresses you funny?

Hey, you’re looking good. Have you been working out? Oh, can you help a brother out and share this post with your friends? I’m just saying….

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