The Machiavellian approach to online negativity

Posted on: May 5, 2011

No one likes criticism, but it gives us perspective on ourselves we may not otherwise have seen. Taking a Machiavellian angle, it’s worth keeping in mind the second law of power: Never put too much trust in friends; learn how to use enemies.. which quite simply reminds us that if we listen only to our friends, we will never know our own flaws, the things we might change to make ourselves better. But our enemies, they can be relied on to be brutally clear on everything we are doing wrong…

No trolls here

For this reason, I never use, or think in terms of the word ‘troll’ – and approach every negative comment with the underlying understanding that it could be far more beneficial, in the long run, than the ones from friendly back-patters.

8 ways to deal with negative comments

That said, you usually need to make practical decisions on how to handle negativity in the short-term. Laurel Papworth has written an excellent post with 8 ways to deal with negative comments online. Summary diagram:

On this topic Drupal site owners might also want to check out the rather naughty Misery module (designed to make life difficult for certain users).

Capitalising on your hall of mirrors

But in the long term, there is one more ‘response’ – probably the most important one.

Each online critic can be viewed as that bathroom mirror you don’t really want to look into… so the question is not just how to deal with them… but how to deal with you.

This is the ultimate end of social engagement online: reception. The organisation, its products, functions and approach adapt faster, more smoothly to what the people (i.e. the market) really want. Brands that manage this will reap dividends.

button image from Making All Things New

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