I know, we live in a free-for-all, let it all hang out, be transparent social media world where anonymous commenters hurl flaming arrows of ugliness across the web. It’s very easy to respond to one of these comments with your own sarcastic response to prove your prowess in this realm. Face it, we like to score points, to put people in their place.
But, as an author, your reputation is your most valuable asset. You have worked so hard to build your author platform and establish yourself at the expert in your field. You’ve built an audience on your facebook page. Your twitter followers always retweet your pearls of wisdom. Your schedule is booked for the foreseeable future with book signings, keynote addresses, and other benefits of having published your book.
Use Your Pause Button
And you can ruin it all in an unthinking response in a flash of anger. Trust me, it will not help your reputation at all if you begin to be seen as angry and vindictive. I know, sometimes it’s really hard to hit the pause button and take a moment to think before we push that reply button.
I did this myself just this week. I was working on something that should have been very easy, yet I had worked through the night struggling with software that just wasn’t doing what I thought it was supposed to do.
I was tired. And very cranky. That’s no excuse.
In a fit of pique I responded to a comment and totally trashed this product in a public forum where I’m known for being very helpful and friendly.
Did my little temper tantrum help me at all? No.
What it did do is confuse people. They did not know this raging lunatic, and they didn’t like her. I don’t blame them.
One lesson that I learned at a very young age is to not respond to people when I am angry. I’ve gotten my share of angry emails. And it would be SO easy to snap off an angry reply to show that person just how wrong they are. But I’ve learned to utilize one of my greatest tools–the pause button. To take a few minutes to breathe and compose a much calmer reply.
Sometimes this means I have to let it sit till the next day because I’m still mad. That’s OK. A thoughtful reply the next day is always better than a hasty angry retort within minutes.
Yes, my pause button was broken that day. It’s fixed now.
Consider the Consequences
I used to follow someone on twitter who had very good marketing advice. It was good stuff that I enjoyed reading. But all of the sudden his whole focus changed and he began tweeting nothing but ugly political vindictive. It was really kind of vile. And not at all what I expected when I followed him. I unfollowed him in a hurry. And from what I hear, many others did, too.
Unless the political arena is your niche, it may be wise to temper your statements in this area. I’m not saying to hide or censor yourself. I am saying to remember that your actions have consequences.
And the most important place to put your efforts when building your author platform is to give value to the people in your target audience. Don’t chase them away by not understanding the consequences of what you do to THEM.
Put Yourself in Their Place
It’s so easy to assume that the person on the other end of that comment is ignorant, uneducated, spiteful, jealous, or any of the other states we ascribe to such people, but maybe they just had a bad day, too.
Elizabeth Potts Weinstein writes very eloquently about this in her piece In Response to Drama, Trolls, and Inadequate Baristas. She was reminded of this lesson by her young daughter.
So what would happen if we gave these people the benefit of the doubt? Maybe a little less ugliness in the world is what I’m thinking. Let’s hope so anyway.
Are you taking the opportunity to respond usefully to your readers?