Do you want a blog community or do you just want nicey-nicey?

When I immersed myself in the social media world three years ago, one of the most remarkable things I noted was how freaking boring it was.

There was an almost total lack of any meaningful debate or community.  Sure, everyone SAID they wanted community … that was the big buzz word …  but that is NOT what was happening!

For the most part, the top bloggers of that period hated any form of debate. If anybody dared to criticize an A-Lister, a fortress of sycophants would gather like blog-zombies to mindlessly defend against the most minor criticism or slight. Blog comment areas were simply a chronological list of people saying “Great post!”

It was remarkable to observe. Nobody would EVER DARE to write an unfavorable word against another blogger because it would end the reciprocity gravy train.

It’s still a lot like that today, or course.  The social web runs on the hope of reciprocity — an economy of small favors. If you cross a powerful blogger, the hope for a favor in the form of a mention or a tweet dries up.  So why risk it?

I thought this was a really destructive and dysfuntioncal dynamic. The blogosphere was one big love-in. How would we grow, how would we move forward, how would we innovate, unless we challenge and push each other in constructive ways?

And on top of it all, I found all this social media nicey-nicey happy-happy joy-joy breathtakenly dull.

So I wrote an article about it.  In The Social Media Country Club  I called out the A-Listers and said they were a bunch of back-slapping, glad-handers and I wanted to see some debate. That … I got.

When I pushed that “publish button” I figured I had just killed my chances of ever being a mainstream blogger. But just the opposite happened. Yes, I got a LOT of flak from the blog zombies, but I also had a groundswell of people saying “YES! It was about time somebody said this!”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, was the beginning of the {grow} community.

I took the risk and stepped out of the nicey-nicey box for a day to see what would happen and it was successful because it started a REAL debate and attracted a core group of folks who said “We’re in” and many of them have stuck around for good.

So now I need to ask you something. When was the last time you wrote a blog post or comment where you DISAGREED with somebody?  I mean you’re human, right?  I’m sure you disagree with a lot of stuff going on around these parts.  Why aren’t you writing about that?

If you really want a blog community that TALKS to each other you’ve got to get out of nicey-nicey mode.  We do not need another freaking blog about “Five Things I Like About Google Plus.”  Disagree with something. Show some passion. Take a risk. Write a blog post that only you could write.

Here are five tips for disagreeing in a productive way:

1) Don’t write when you’re mad or emotional. You’ll probably regret it and you’ll lose credibilty if the rant does not have some substance. Also, don’t rant when you’re drunk.

2) Don’t take it personally. When you get pummelled, it’s a sign that you’re making people think and that you’re evoking a reaction. Get in a mindset of “If I take a risk, it is likely people will disagree. I should be prepared for dissent” … and when it shows up, just think “well, there it is.”

3) Be constructive. I have publicly and voceriferously disagreed with Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Jay Baer, Mitch Joel, and Jason Falls, to name a few.   In each of these cases, I have disagreed, but also managed to remain friends with these folks (Except Seth. Have never met him) because the disagreements have been constructive and professional. Don’t just rant with out some answers.

4) Take your licks. I’ve had more than 18,000 comments on {grow} and I have only deleted just three for being inappropriate (and two of them were just being too blatantly sales-y).  Trust your community. Usually people are nice. And if they’re not, hang in there amd show ’em what you’re made of.

5) Be patient. At one point last year I actually did a study and found that about one-third of the comments on {grow} disagreed with me, Honestly, this can get wearying!  Sometimes I am in just in a mood for harmony. But I also know that every comment — both positive and negative — is a gift. This person devoted their precious time to YOU and cared enough to comment. That’s awesome, isn’t it?

Now I know if you are working for a big corporation there are some very practical, legal, and political reasons why you might not want to kick up some dust.  But if you have a personal blog, what’s holding you back?

If this is out of your comfort zone … all the more reason to do it.  At least try it. It will add some interest and diversity to your content … and it just might the kick-start your community needs!

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  • LOL @ the Barney pic. That aside, I think what you’re doing is great. You’re right to say that there aren’t many real communities out there that participates in genuine interaction and I’m glad {grow} is doing the opposite. Real insights, real people, real experiences shared – this is the essence of a true community. 
    Apart from that, I also think that it is really cool that how this community is built on a blog and not on a full fledged community platform such as a separate community site. Sure shows the true meaning of a community 🙂

  • ? ? ? What a wonderful, fabulous post!? ? ?

  • Thanks Jan. In all honesty, I have no idea what I’m doing. I just go with the flow and use common sense. : )

  • Very appropirate comment! LOL!

  • Mark,

    You are one of the best teachers of “How to disagree without being disagreeable” and I learn a lot from how you handle that.

    A few months ago, I wrote a post that pissed some people off called “What a Fool Believes” it was about the ranty “Ministers” in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. I don’t feel the need to walk around announcing I am an Atheist to everyone, but what gives you the right to shove your GOD down my throat?

    The comments were mostly supportive. I let the one very Christian comment stand, until she came back and started to piggyback off someone else (who was being sarcastic) I told her that was not going to fly here. She could make her points without dragging someone else into the fray.

    I learned that watching you defend your commenters Mark. I remember someone calling your commenters “morons” and you were very blunt about “you want to come after me, here I am but you will not insult my readers”

    We have to be open to seeing things differently, or else run the risk of learning nothing. I would rather be pushed and congratulated for thinking for myself than being another sheep.

    PS – Great post Mark!

  • I just love it here, you are amazing Mark!  Seriously though, tip number 1 is very very important. I tend to get sucked into blogs by the comments section first, if they’re all in agreement with the blogger and each other as well I find them a tad meh and generally never go back.  Conversation, disagreement, ideas, thoughts (without the trolls) is what holds me and makes me think.

  • As with most things in life, blogging can turn into just one more case of going through the motions … riding the hamster wheel … getting stuck in the grind … UNLESS you decide to do it consciously. When you start to be really aware of what you’re putting out there, when you start to ask the hard questions and put your neck on the line to provide your own answers … that’s when interesting things start to happen. Your story is a perfect illustration of this. Hurrah for happy, joyful disagreement! 😉 

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  • O.K. I am always up for a challenge. 
    Having taken a break, because I was aware of this condition and I moved homes, I am willing to do this.
    Since we last talked I have been really thinking about our conversation and I do believe it is time to start that topic, as no one else seems to be going to.
    I read that post and as obvious as it seems now, I bet you had the fan covered in it…
    The tips should be some of the first advice that any gets when they blog. Good stuff.

  • Mark, that was brilliant.

    Of course, as I agree with you my perspective is skewed 😉

    From the title through the Barneyism, and in the nitty gritty details, you said things I think and say all the time; when everyone agrees with everything you say, you likely haven’t said anything.

    That said, I’ll cop to something: when I get an unflattering comment at http://answerguy.com, the comment BOTHERS me. I welcome the feedback/criticism, and negative sure doesn’t mean “delete”, but it makes me personally uncomfortable, no matter how much it might align with my goal of fostering debate.

    Last week, I beat the crap out of David Aldridge, one of TNT’s basketball guys ( http://answerguy.com/2011/11/01/nba-basketball-journalism-trust-david-aldridge/ ), when he wrote that the players should fold in their dispute with the owners. Let me be clear that don’t care who wins and can live with not having NBA basketabll. My bone with David was that he wrote what he did AT NBA.COM, which is an owned asset of the NBA, which means the owners control it.

    In other words, I thought David’s journalistic credibility was tarnished by this, and said so. David didn’t like it.

    And that’s called dialog.

    Like I said, I agree with your position so this is easy, but from where I sit it should be a NO-BRAINER that discourse—even and especially dissenting discourse—is really the lingua franca of the Internet. And should be.

    Otherwise, we could all just watch Fox News.

  • The foundation of this community.

  • Too often, too much “nicey-nicey” gets in the way of real conversation.  Taking a stand always comes at a cost, but it usually does build a stronger tribe/community when done genuinely and courteously – you have a knack for doing both…at the risk of sounding a bit too “nicey, nicey”.

  • Mark, I’m not a fan of the niceyniceykumbaya, and I agree with @twitter-117500958:disqus that you can “disagree without being disagreeable”. I’m also not a fan of disagreeing for the sake of doing so. I believe it’s important to say what you mean and mean what you say, stand firm in your convictions, and speak up when you feel it’s important to do so.

    Many people know I don’t believe in “balance”…I think the concept of balance is B.S. so I have no problem expressing my point of view on that. I don’t come out and say I “disagree” with the concept of balance, I simply put my own opinion and perspective forward, and enjoy the ensuing conversation and debate.

    I maintain the axiom “disagree with issues and concepts, not people.” I think it’s important and healthy to debate, but I don’t believe it’s necessary or admirable to rip someone to shreds simply because we don’t “agree”.

    I have no problem going outside my comfort zone, making mistakes or forging new paths. We grow that way, and I like to think that, by sharing one’s own perspective is a way of “disagreeing without being disagreeable.” Cheers! Kaarian

  • Anonymous

    Hi

    I have not been active in your community because I was trying to {grow} my own. I recently decided that my posts are too close ended to generate many conversations. I’m working on that. 

    In the mean time I’m toe dipping into several communities to find one that feels right. So here I am.

    In 300 posts on my site I had 1, yes thats sad, one post that had more than a single comment. It was totally disagreement and cautionary warnings about my recommendation in the post. 

    Now I know that I don’t want everyone to comment a disagreement on every post I would like to find a POV that people find value in and constructive discussion is still open after a post is finished.

    Looking for my club
    D

  • I actually wrote a few of those lately :). 

    One was a guest post [email protected]_dogan:twitter ‘s blog about the OWS movement. I have to give credit to Dino for always being willing to push the envelope on his blog and throwing “kumbaya” right out the window. That created quite a discussion. And actually having a discussion felt good for a change.

    …and looking forward to meeting you Mark!

  • Great story Nancy. Sounds like you handled that well. It is tough to stand and take it sometimes but you have to be an effective and fair moderator of you will kill the dialogue.

  • Thanks for the kind comment and the heads-up. Honestly I have been so busy that it has been difficult to get into Google Plus. I know I need to at least know enough to be intelligent about it. Thanks for the push my friend!

  • Yeah, I disagree. Now, will you please tweet my post?

  • Hi Mark,

    That post about the social media a-listers was the one that got me reading your blog, which I believe I’ve told you over and over. I can still remember how relieved I felt reading that post – FINALLY someone was breaking from the irritating tradition of butt kissing. Just how insecure and needy are we that everyone has to agree with each other all the time? I’m constantly astonished at how willing some people are to display this insecurity through threats of lawsuits and brandishing of the word “troll.” Get over yourself!

    But now Mark I want to disagree with you just to prove that I am not nodding along like a zombie. I’m going to make the same disagreement that I made with @ginidietrich:twitter when she had a similar post. It’s the echo chamber that makes a person famous in this community – if you disagree a little bit you’re okay, but more than that, and you alienate everyone. Perhaps this is just the balance that exists in life. Who likes completely disagreeable people?

    Jenn

  • Nice points, I wonder how many bloggers will listen. I recently wrote a white paper against a popular product in our industry and it struck up some lively debates on LinkedIn, which I very much appreciated. However, what I didn’t like about the debate was how some chose to attack our motives and our credibility, unjustly. Then refused to respond after I attempted to correct their views. If the blogger/writer is able to maintain professionalism and an unbiased tone, commenters/disagrees need too also.

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  • I think that characteristic of putting your neck on the line is a key point Jamie. It does take a certain amount of courage to put yourself out there. There are very, very few times I push the “publish” button that I don’t think “I hope they don’t think this is dumb” (including this post today!). You jus have to keep experimenting and growing. Thanks!

  • That was a tough day, being a new blogger and getting hammered — by both experienced folks and newcomers. But I had nothing to lose. Still don’t really : )

  • Laura Pence

    Alrighty! I’m not trying to be nicey-nicey and agreeable, but it just so happens that I love what you have to say in this post. So here’s some harmony for you! Great post. I can feel the irony. LOL 🙂

    P.S. Your Barney cartoon had me ROFL

  • Jeff, thanks for this very honest and brilliant comment. I think there is something about being human that seeks balance and harmony. It is uncomfortable having dissent at times, but I am a better person, a smarter marketer for it! Thanks. Great job.

  • Your shortest comment ever? : ) thanks, friend!

  • Ay nicey-nicey from you is a supreme compliment! Thanks Glen!

  • You are bringing up a crucial point that I probably should have included in the original post. Attach issues. Not people.

    Usually I have stopped naming names in my posts. I find that when there is a name attached to an issue, it becomes ugly and personal. I don’t want that. Most people don’t deserve that negative attention, but the issues do! Thanks Kaarina!

  • I hope you’ve found it! : )

    Becoming active in blog communities is a great way to build your own. It is a great way to draw attention to your personality and your views. This is a place to make great friends!

  • Actually @dino_Dogan is an inspiration in that way. He even makes me blush some times with his honesty. I love the ad reviews he used to do and hope he brings them back. See you soon Eugene.

  • Done. Reciprocity is alive and well.

  • A delicate balance indeed. Here’s the danger. If you ever took Communicaton 101 you must have heard that 75% of all communication is non-verbal. That means we are missing out a lot on the social web.

    There have been many times that I disagree with somebody and it is blown WAY out of proportion because sub ties or tone were missed. Or maybe the comment was not even read at all.

    We are constantly brewing recipes for disaster through reliance on written communications. It’s amazing we don’t have even more problems than we do!

  • I can’t make anybody do anything. All I can do is control myself and hope it sets an example. Here’s hoping! : )

  • Irony rules. Thanks Laura!!

  • I’ve tried to sidestep some issues that would create controversy but it may be time to push the envelope. I’ve thought about some posts on political marketing (to be honest maybe to drum up some business from that factor since these folks have all that money to spend). Have to hndle it carefully s anything I would say about the marketing mistakes of candidate A would be construed as support for candidate B. Do I dare write that Herman Cain post?

  • Great post Mark (or not if you prefer disagreement) – kidding!  As a mom of 2 young ones, I LOVE the Barney reference.  I agree, a good debate is great as long as it is constructive and not nasty.  Nasty stops people from listening and although interesting, is much less meaningful.  Great advice not to rant when drunk…no ranting under the influence!

  • I am the “nicey nicey” writer that can use your Five Tips.   Although I somewhat pride myself on 3 unsubscribes after the BIG WHY newsletter from last week.  Did I dare overstep the mark & ask someone to actually care about something more than functional goals.

     I find that it’s easier if I’m going to lay out a challenge, to front up to a situation rather than a person.

    Thanks for the Barney image- is there anything more annoying than the Wiggles (having just survived that era myself). You’ve now given my “nicey nicey” a very annoying image to associate.  I’m sure that in itself is enough to foster courage.

  • 100% true advice, but I won’t be taking it.

    First, you make the assumption in the opening that having a “community” is inherently better than having a blog. I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s an open and shut question. It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. 

    Second, you and Gini and Danny and Olivier and others have indeed built robust communities with a core group of loyal readers and commenters based on your skills, and thirst for controversy and debate. But you can’t make the assumption that everyone has the taste for that approach, even if it does work. 

    I can only speak for myself, but I have a very strong dose of “if you don’t have anything positive to say, keep your mouth shut” ingrained in me from a young age. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, I have plenty. But I don’t often feel comfortable raking people over the coals even when they deserve it. To me, it’s negative and unnecessary, even if it would help with my community-building. 

    The cream will rise. It doesn’t need me to do the churning for it. 

    And the more you (and others) advocate for strong opinion not because you feel strongly, but because it helps “community” (read: page views and subscribers that can be monetized), the more you are advising people to be stir the pot under false pretenses. And that helps nobody. 

    If we’ve reached the point where being “nice” is a character or leadership flaw, we’re in bad shape as an industry. Surprised and a bit sad that you would take this position.

  • Karen Bice

    Great post, Mark, and very relevant. I’m still up in the air with putting a blog out, but I definitely know that if you’re going to have a blog and you encourage your readers to express their opinions to get a healthy discussion going, you don’t tell a commenter who disagrees with you that they don’t know what they’re talking about, which recently happened to me. The blogger took my comments personally, although they were meant generally, and it was on the topic of OWS. Then, when I expressed my displeasure with his stating on his blog that I didn’t know what I was talking about, he  said I was the one with the problem, that I didn’t accept his opinion. My issue wasn’t that we both had different opinions. My issue was a blog owner telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about. If you’re going to have a blog, I believe it’s in your best interest not to piss off your readers,,,

  • I feel like I am on a super charged rocket of a learning journey or something! Thanks for the blog. I am new to putting myself out there and in the last month I have learned more about myself, writing, selling, marketing, social media et al. just by doing it. The reason this post hits home for me, is my discomfort at reading some of the comments I have had over at my blog. (you’ll find it on my twitter feed if interested, its about sales advice, don’t know what the etiquette is re adding a link!) 
    It seems sending my stuff off onto the web sets me up in the readers minds as so many different things! So many different perceptions of what I’m trying to say and even who I am. It’s been fascinating! I’ve even found myself thinking ‘who are they to ‘talk’ to me like that!’ And then I remember I put myself out there in the first place! An amazing and challenging experience. 
    Thanks for the advice I’ve had from you Mark and the Twitter book, and this blog over the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!

  • Mark,
    To me, you are one of the A-listers, and I mean that in a good way. Your blogs inspire me, educate me, and allow me to grow (pun intended). If I am one day able to accomplish what you’ve done with your blog/SM presence, I’d be thrilled!

    I started by blog for the very reason you write about. I was bored to tears with what was out there for my industry- network marketing. It was all “rah-rah”, “believe in yourself”, “you can do it if you really try”. In reality, that’s not helpful. My first post was titled “No Bullshit”, and I try to write each post with that in mind. It’s often scary hitting the publish button, but I hope that I’m offering value to others. I know that I’ll take heat in an industry where the difficulties are swept under the rug and the good ol’ boy network is alive and well, and frequently wonder if maybe nobody did this before because it’s career suicide, but my gut tells me someone has to tell the truth. 

    Your comment point that we lose the nonverbal cues on the web is, I think, the key. I had the experience of leading a nationwide group of over 500 deaf distributors in an MLM company (I am hearing and don’t use ASL), so email became our primary mode of communication. It was such a huge challenge without the nuances of non-verbal cues. 

    Please don’t stop doing what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. You are one of the first people I felt offered value to me when I started, and I continue to read everything you put out (Tao of Twitter was so helpful). Thank you for creating meaningful content and discussion.

  • Mark,

    I’ve actually thought about this idea for some time. I think from a technology stand point, the tools that allow us to engage with a community also seem to handicap our ability to express an alternative opinion without ‘sounding’ disagreeable. I don’t know that we need an Emily Post to identify and institutionalize online mores and standards but some idea of online etiquette might help.  As you mention in one of your responses below, so much is lost in tone and expression in a text, perhaps that’s why emoticons are still used.

    I find many of the comments to your posts insightful and  am happy to quickly scan through many of them for new insights.

    Thanks for the post.

    -Jennifer

  • Mark, on one hand I agree with you. On the other,[email protected]:disqus makes a good point. (Or maybe he is one of those A-listers I would never dare cross? 🙂 )

    Agreement does not drive constructive conversation. If you say what everyone knows and agrees with already (something like Facebook is the biggest social media platform today based on members) – *yawn*. But to Jay’s point, disagreeing isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t an approach I want to see wash across blogs.

    Here is my view: {grow} took off because of you. Not because of controversy, but because you shared a view that wasn’t just another yawn, that didn’t just repeat the same mantra. In your case, controversy probably accelerated it, but I would venture it would have become a community regardless. Why? You invested in making it a community that encouraged discussion by sharing your own point of view, not simply sharing what was already accepted by your audience.

    Your point of view, not necessarily your disagreement with others, is the basis for the discussion that follows nearly every post here and the “community” that discussion has helped create.

  • What have you got to lose?  If the answer is not much, then why not?

  • I don’t think this is a nasty blog. That is not my niche : )  Thanks Holly!

  • Oh yes. The Wiggles. Wish I had thought of that. Next time! Thanks Becky.

  • This is so far off from my reality i wonder if you mis-read the post.  Or perhaps my self-image is really that out of whack?

    I can’t imagine building controversy for the sake of controversy, let alone rake somebody over the coals in the name of blog traffic.  Nothing could be farther from my mind.  I am simply asking people to take a risk and disagree now and then — in an authentic way, over something they believe in. As I re-read my post, I’m sincerely confused as to why would you think I advocate such a radical philosophy.

    Putting me in the same category as Olivier, who I regard as about the most abrasive blogger out there is pretty shocking actually. 

    I consider you a friend and of course somebody I respect. If I’m coming across as an abrasive and unkind personality I’d like to hear more about your perspective. We have a phone call scheduled soon and I would like to take this off line to hear more about your conclusions. Your views are important to me.

    Look forward to the talk.

  • I don’t agree with the way the blogger the handled the situation, but I also am sure that I have pissed off a few of my readers over time.  Occasionally I piss off people in real life too so at least I’m consistent. : )  Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the discussion Karen.

  • I think learning to communicate effectively in this strange and rapid medium is a bit of an art, especially when people scan more often than they read. I’m not sure there is any way to learn it other than to immerse yourself just as you’re doing. Be patient, be kind, and keep learning! Thanks for reading the blog Tony.

  • Thanks for this very kind comment.  As an educator both in practice and in my heart, it always feels great to have somebody tell me they are learning from my posts and experiences. Thanks for taking the time to let me know Karen.

  • It really is an art, isn’t it?  Wonder if we should be teaching such etiquette in the schools now that so much of the conversation occurs over smart phones?  : ) 

  • That’s what I would like to think any way Eric.  I’ll have to let the blog speak for itself, but I never, ever pick a fight just to be controversial as the end goal.  I take risks by writing from my heart, which I believe is the core source of originality. In fact, I would say most of the time I THINK I am writing something controversial, I find that many people actually have been thinking the same thing and it ends up starting a great dialogue!  That probably happens most of the time!  Thanks so much for your thought-provoking comment.

  • I didn’t say abrasive. Nor did I say unkind. I would never say that about you, as it would be patently untrue. I wasn’t trying to compare you to any blogger in particular, and probably should have just left that alone. Was just observing that there are people in social media that have been more aggressive about running posts that disagree, and I named a few off the top of my head. Perhaps not coincidentally (per your post) those bloggers all have very vibrant communities with a high percentage of commentors. 

    I know that you would not run a negative post just for link bait. But, you did say:

    I took the risk and stepped out of the nicey-nicey box for a day to see what would happen and it was successful because it started a REAL debate …… If you really want a blog community that TALKS to each other you’ve got to get out of nicey-nicey mode. 

    I read that (and if I am mistaken, I apologize) as clearly advocating for not “nicey-nicey” because it will be “successful” and create a community that “TALKS” (your caps). I do not believe you are in any way mean-spirited, but I most certainly do believe that the advice you’ve put forth in this post could be misconstrued by readers without your inherent values and altruism. 

    Looking forward to chatting this week. 

  • Oh agreed!  I meant blog commenters that are nasty

  • I’m not sure where you were prior to the last three years but I’ve been a part of quite a few communities of “steel on steel” (sword on sword if you will) and often quite reminiscent of the flame wars of the late 80’s and early 90’s in IRC, BBS and other networks. I urge anyone who is blogging to be their self. I have had as a guest Jay Baer on my show and I know he has a kinder approach than many. I, on the other hand, “call a spade a spade” when I believe it has value to the community – especially when it comes to people doling out advice to bloggers/community builders.

    The question everyone should ask their self is, “why do I do this?” If all you want is comments you can get plenty of them simply by fishing for them. What we’re facing today is, as my friend Brian Carter has written, is “The Like Economy”. Do you want “likes” and if you get them do they bring the value you want? Do you want subscribers and if you have them do they bring the value you want? Do you want comments and if you have them do they bring the value you want?

    For example your tagline says, “Grow, grow, grow …” That’s not necessarily true. Most of the time it is true but it is not always true.  Membership groups, book sellers and radio hosts would be wise to grow but a Virtual Assistant who already dedicates 60 hours to his clients per week and does not want to add employees (by their own business plan) does not need to grow. Granted *most* people do want to grow but it is not everyone. 

    Every blogger/community builder and user of social media needs know what they do, why they do it, for whom they do it, and what it looks like when it is done. It’s personal.

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  • What?! We disagreed on something?!? 

  • And here, too! Hi!

  • And so many people to gain. And I am looking at that rather than the stuff that hit the fan. More soon…

  • Thanks for the clarification. I probably could have been clearer, too.

    What I was trying to get across is that if you only write posts that are of the ilk of “the 5 biggest Twitter mistakes” you are unlikely to attract and sustain a community. You need to do something different, orginal and take some risks.

    I also acknowldege that you are correct in saying there can be different goals for blogs. I taught a class on that today in fact. And certainly there are many legitimate business reasons to have a blog besides “community.” Thanks again for adding to the discussion. 

  • I doubt it. : )

  • Great comment and I agree. It all starts with stratetgy and it flows from there.  I would enjoy participating in these “steel on steel” communitities. maybe i have been looking in the wrong places! Thanks for this superb perspective Ken.

  • I just did one on mommy bloggers so I totally disagree with your words. Forwarded to me by a good friend @bubblegumcari. Was a rough couple days but resulted in lots of traffic and I’m still glad I wrote it. Thanks!

  • Not sire if you’re agreeing or disagreeing but thanks for taking the time to comment! : )

  • So I don’t know if I agree with you or not. That’s about as much confrontation as I can muster at the moment. Does that make me too nicey-nice or wishy-washy?

    I’m not always nice in the morning, especially before I’ve had my first cup of coffee, but I try to start the day with a peaceful mindset. I know the day will have its share of stress so I don’t need to look for more of it when reading blogs.

    I enjoy a good debate but it’s not what I’m looking for each morning at work as I read through the various blogs I follow. Inform me, entertain me or help make me think about something in a new way. That’s what I’m looking for and I usually find it here on {grow}. I like to read other opinions and comments that extend or expand an idea or topic that you or one of your guest writers begin with. 
    I did enjoy your sparring match with Jay even though you hardly laid a glove on each other. You are both too nice.

  • So I don’t know if I agree with you or not. That’s about as much confrontation as I can muster at the moment. Does that make me too nicey-nice or wishy-washy?

    I’m not always nice in the morning, especially before I’ve had my first cup of coffee, but I try to start the day with a peaceful mindset. I know the day will have its share of stress so I don’t need to look for more of it when reading blogs.

    I enjoy a good debate but it’s not what I’m looking for each morning at work as I read through the various blogs I follow. Inform me, entertain me or help make me think about something in a new way. That’s what I’m looking for and I usually find it here on {grow}. I like to read other opinions and comments that extend or expand an idea or topic that you or one of your guest writers begin with. 
    I did enjoy your sparring match with Jay even though you hardly laid a glove on each other. You are both too nice.

  • Yeah I shouldn’t be allowed to comment late at night. That should say “agree”…

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  • Way to stir the pot, Mark! I agree with you and Jay both, if that’s possible. I write a tech blog for everyday people. Many tech blogs out there are full of comments from rude flamers, endlessly debating issues like PC vs. Mac and iPhone vs. Android, so to have a blog that explains tech in a user-friendly way without those acidic debates is somewhat unique.

    That being said, I enjoy respectful debate and love it when my readers disagree with me. I will disagree with my commenters as well. Debate is such a healthy way of learning and opening minds, you’re right we should see more of it.

    When I visit a blog and disagree with the author, I will say so, respectfully. If the blogger wants only positive comments, he can always delete my comment. But I haven’t seen that happen yet. 

    I hope this post inspires more debate in the blogging community as it has with your readers.

  • This was a funny article for me…only because I see the symptoms you describe. Lots of back-slapping going on, so the discussion rarely goes beyond the original topics and viewpoints expressed in the blog post. In contrast, the comments in your blog posts have generated side discussions, contrarian opinions and perhaps even “opposing view” blog posts. Almost all of it has been around constructive and healthy debate vs belligerent or sales-y.

    I am glad you encourage it, Mark. It makes us all better and more productive community members.

  • Things happen in life. Sometimes I get irritable. At times it is a challenge to not let that creep into the public discourse.  I am painfully transparent. : ) 

  • How can you be fully human and not disagree sometimes?  I think blogs can benefit from being more human : )   Thanks Carolyn. Sounds like you’re on your way in that regard! 

  • It’s educational but it is also part of the fun. I would stop blogging if people only agreed with me all the time. I don’t want to be in that place. Thanks Brian!

  • Just have to say that the Barney picture is absolutely brilliant. There is something kind of sinister and scary about that giant purple puppet, like he’s nicey, nicey now…. but you turn your back for one second….

  • Dean

    Social media is similar to text through mobile. There is no emotion or expression. Therefor communication is limited to text and heightened by an exclamation point  or smiley face.  Too much can be lost in the translation and happens frequently with interpretation. For business, before you launch it is advisable to get some social media marketing training.

  • Mark and Jay –

    This is an issue I have been struggling with a lot. There is another angle to this topic that a lot of people don’t seem to talk about.

    While my blog is not a corporate blog, I do mention right there on my homepage that I am the third generation of my family’s agency. My blog is there for our clients and contacts to read. In fact, I link to my blog from my company email address. It has been that way from the beginning.

    This by necessity constrains how I write and what I write about. My blog is an extension of my office, where a client could walk in or call at any moment, or where one of our valued vendors or contacts could do the same. What would happen in real life if a client called and heard me arguing my head off with somebody? My guess is that they would think, “Woah, I didn’t know we were entrusting our marketing to a company where the third generation is totally nuts.”

    I can’t risk that.

    In the short time that I have been online, I have been called a sycophant just because I noted on a rather vitriolic blog post that maybe being so, well, angry wasn’t really productive. I have been called boring because I write about things that a lot of people already know (but the new folks don’t). I have been told that being “nice” is really boring, and of course there is the over-arching and extremely weird thematic undertone to the online world which is, “You know you’ve made it once someone hates you.”

    I don’t want anyone to hate me. At least not on a regular basis. That’s not why I’m here.

    I am not really sure that there is a “right” way to approach this issue. I have all of the respect in the world for the people you mention, Jay. I of course adore both of you. I scratch my head and wonder why the posts that tend to do the best in the online world are the ones that use cuss words in the subject line. I wonder why people consider that using language like that means you have “balls.” To me, it means you are being sort of unprofessional if you are here on behalf of a business or brand. I wonder why people bait each other via blog posts and links and tweets. Don’t they know it just makes THEM look desperate and mean?

    So, I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you that so long as I have the name of my family’s agency on my blog’s homepage, I will have to be considered a nicey boring goody-goody ball-less blogger. 

    And I’m pretty okay with that.

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  • Scanned this last week, finally getting around to commenting and pseudo-disagreeing.

    Thinking about what others have said about strategy, about goals, how we define community and what we want from our blogs. I am trying to resist the pull of any echo chambers, though that might be where the popularity, credibility lurk? And that annoying Klout nonsense? But at the end of the day, like speaks to like and I’m more a part of some communities than others – all the while trying to build a blog that grows my business. So not sure how disagreeing helps me.

    From comments, I get what you’re saying and respect it but.. IDK Mark, I’m more apt to disagree in comments that I am my own blog. I’ll call out bad crisis communications, go off on a questionable tactic, rant HARD on a bad practice. I like to think I do speak my mind – when as you suggest, I can add something helpful, productive that benefits my audience. It’s not a matter of nicey or community; a “Mark Schaefer is dead wrong” post isn’t my style and not sure how it would benefit my readers, value yada yada. 

    Whether it’s to agree, disagree, praise the excellence of SEC football, THIS is best advice you’ve got right here: “Write a blog post that only you could write.” Could not agree more. FWIW.

  • Yes, he is in the same category as “clowns.” : )

  • Something for you to think about …

    I was working with a hotel chain and we talking about a sprinking of bad reviews they received on different review sites.

    “We don’t mind a few negatives,” they told me. “It make the site real. It gives us credibility. If everything is just positive, well … that’s just not believable.”

    It’s quite ironic that the pervasive mantra of the social web is to keep it real, be authentic, be human, etc.  But when it comes to expressing an honest human emotion that is different than a happy face people get queasy.  I’m not saying be mean. I’m encouraging people to be honest and courageous with their views … at least occasionally. I agree with my customers. It makes you more believable. Not to mention more interesting.

    As a person, I want to lift people up, celebrate greatness, set and example and shine a light on my community. Disagreeing when I am passioante about something is not mutually exclusive with this goal.

  • You have to do what works for you. You have to examine your goals and as I said in my post, I can imagine a lot of reasons to avoid controversy.  I’m in the same position as you — my name is on my business, my name is on my blog. I am my brand, just as you are yours.  I encourage my customers to engage, take a stand when appropriate, be human and try to entertain if possible. So I am walking the talk.  I have never lost a customer because of my blog but I have gained many. I don’t think you have to be unkind, unprofessional, or provactive to just plain old disagree.

    And I know that Jay has publicly disagreed with both me and Seth Godin in the last three months so I don;t even see what the disagreement is.  We are not disagreeing about disagreeing : )

  • You don’t have to be, but unfortunately it seems that the art of civil disagreement is going the way of Latin. People are so ready to be offended that disagreeing becomes, “You’re attacking me.” It’s really unfortunate because I was raised to argue 🙂

    See how I neatly avoided agreeing with your statement about not being able to disagree on disagreeing? Awz yeah!!

  • Another good thing about negative reviews: they tell you what you’re doing wrong. It’s a good way to improve as a brand, as writer, a community manager – listen to that feedback and make changes for the better. And to back track on my comment a little, I looked at some old posts and future drafts today and whataya know, I do disagree (at least, more often than I thought) – with a similar goal of sharing better examples. Anyway, point taken. FWIW.

  • I wonder if you knew on the 8th that this would be your best post in November.

    In my limited experience, I’ve definitely noticed the SoMe Country Club atmosphere. Thanks for being the Happy Gilmour in these parts!

    My question/ concern since the revamped Klout algorithm is that it seemingly deepens this problem. I know of certain Klout snobs that won’t reply to/interact with

  • Agree. Klout is an important new form of social proof. Now, add valuable perks on top of that and there is going to be a frenzy of activity as people try to game it to get ahead. Disturbing time ahead.

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  • Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

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