Social media is a popularity contest. Although not everyone keeps score, there is a distinctly competitive element where people race to build up the most fans, as quickly as possible. Having a large quantity of fans can help you be successful and spread your message. But the size of your online shadow — the (often invisible) enemies who dislike and distrust you — can have have an even bigger impact on your influence.
Ahmadinejad “won” the election, but lost the respect and cooperation of many Iranians and international leaders
If someone thinks you’re uninteresting, they might unfriend or mostly ignore you – but they usually won’t try to get in the way of your success. However, if you speak / act / brand yourself in a way that offends someone enough to put you on their “bad list” – they will oftentimes try to quietly “block” your message from getting out to others:
- Won’t retweet, reciprocate, or recognize you – ever again.
- Anonymously downvote your stories or comments.
- Whisper or gossip negative stuff behind your back.
- Will recommend “anyone but you” for jobs, speaking gigs, etc.
In more severe cases, people will aggressively try to sabotage your chances of success. They might publish negative or defamatory information about you. Or they’ll go behind the scenes and ask people to blacklist you, or file complaints with the authorities (search engines, site moderators, employers, event organizers). This can quickly erode at the thousands of hours of effort you’ve spent creating goodwill and a positive personal brand.
Active Resistance is the Ultimate Buzz Killer
Creating major buzz around your ideas requires an unbroken crescendo of community cooperation and enthusiasm. A just couple of grudging downvotes or influential people snubbing you early in the cycle can very easily keep your message from gaining momentum fast enough. This is why I believe your online enemies can be more powerful than your friends… your enemies are usually much more diligent about blocking the spread of your message than the average acquaintance is dedicated to spreading it for you. Here’s the rough equation in my head:
Detractors are much more likely to resist your efforts than casual friends are willing to support them.
I see the most successful and influential people online as those with a relatively large number of fans and relatively few harsh detractors. To me, an aggressive marketer with 10,000 superficial friends “on paper,” but only 50 who really trust and endorse them — and a shadow of 50,000 people who feel they’re a spammer, loudmouth or self-centered jerk… has far less true influence than a person with “only” 450 diehard fans who will do anything for them and 5 people who dislike them.
There’s always the temptation to cut corners or do things quickly to get ahead – things like auto DMs, mass e-mail lists, follow and unfollow games, copying people’s ideas or content, bragging, flambait & personal attacks… and they might work to some degree but they often have the side effect of hurting people’s feelings and respect for you. People’s respect is a vital and difficult-to-repair social media asset.
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Brett Borders, the author of this article, is a professional copywriter who specializes in increasing website sales and signup rates. I'm available now to write for your website and optimize it for maximum sales and profits. Please contact me now for a free consultation.