One of the things seldom mentioned about developing a successful online profile or brand, is that as your visibility increases, you’re likely to start attracting some unwelcome attention. This usually ranges from mild abuse on social networks, to full blown blog posts slamming you.
In my experience, there are 2 key reasons why someone would want to target a stranger in this way:
- They are jealous of what they believe that person has achieved or their popularity, and see the Internet as a way to anonymously vent their jealousy.
- They want to piggyback on that person’s influence, by getting the person to talk about them – even negatively.
Jealousy is one of the prices of success
In the age of the Internet, it’s relatively simple to spot people or brands that are popular. You can see how many followers or fans someone has and it’s easy to see if their blog or website is popular too. This makes popularity or success a lot more visible today than ever before.
Now, when you build something that’s popular or successful, most people will see your success as an inspiration; proof that if they do as you have done, they too can achieve the same or better. However, there will also be a tiny percentage of people, who will see what you have achieved as a reminder of their own short comings. Rather then improve their situation, they elect to negatively impact yours as a way to address the imbalance.
Dealing with this kind of thing, has become part of the price some people have to pay, for the visibility that comes with a prominent online profile. The trick, by the way, is to see it for what it is and then move on.
Piggybacking on your success
Another reason why some people choose to take a swipe at those with a large online following, is a lot more calculated. This, in my experience, is also a lot more common too. Here’s the general idea behind it:
- Bob has 100,000 followers on Twitter or a blog with 5,000 unique visitors a day.
- Mary hasn’t.
- Mary then decides that if she can get under Bob’s skin with an abusive tweet or blog post, Bob might respond and then his network of followers or readers will suddenly know that Mary exists.
- Mary then hopes to increase the number of people who follow her, or read her blog as a result of this additional exposure.
In January 2009, I had one of the top 50 most followed accounts on Twitter and the 3rd largest following in England. Back then, I used to get this kind of thing regularly. I just ignored it, because I understood why people were doing it and what they wanted to achieve. I simply saw it like a game and part of the price I had to pay, for deliberately making myself so visible.
A great example of this happened recently, on a much larger scale. It was during an email exchange between Ryan Tate from Gawker and Apple CEO Steve Jobs. After grilling Jobs via email, Tate immediately published the email exchange on his website and it went around the Internet like a virus.
Well, kind of.
That’s because although it increased awareness of Ryan Tate, it didn’t paint him in a very positive light, as he tried to get under Jobs’ skin just to get a response. The most heavily quoted part of the exchange, which Tate assumed would show Jobs to be an ass, actually seems to have done the opposite; according to much of the media coverage. It clearly shows that although Jobs answered lots of Tates’ questions, he believed he knew what was behind it. This is also the final email in their exchange.
Here’s what Jobs said:
“By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything or just criticize other’s work and belittle their motivations?”
The email exchange made the mainstream news, but seems to have worked a lot better for Jobs, than for Tate. Tate got the traffic, but Jobs got the PR.
The traffic for Tate will have long gone by now; however, the PR for Jobs, who has had people questioning his ability to run Apple with his health challenges, has been pure gold dust!
Thanks to the opportunities we have via the Internet, if we get our marketing right, we can reach thousands of people every day with our messages. More prospective clients or customers can see us and we can attract leads and business enquiries all day long, 7 days a week.
In the grand scheme of things, these kind of tactics when directed at you are doing little more than signal your increased visibility – which is probably what you want. The occasional irritating message or blog post is a relatively small price to pay and when seen in context, is almost something to look forward to.