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Increased exposure = more criticism. Deal with it.

Written by Tyme White on April 21, 2008

One of the benefits of having more people read your articles: increased exposure. The problem: many writers do not realize the increased exposure brings praise and criticism. Most people love the praise and unfortunately some people honestly cannot deal with negative criticism, particularly those that are not used to negative criticism. The average writer does not receive any type of feedback on their site in the beginning (and this can last for months) so this situation is completely understandable. As more people read your articles, listen to your podcasts, view your images, etc. negative criticism will come (in this example look how calm and professional the person being criticized responded). To be clear, I am not talking about trolls.

This is the Social Media Age!

Social media is the new buzz-term. Now more than ever people are getting online, sharing and talking about whatever hits their head. That doesn’t mean people are thinking about what they say before they say it, care to be considerate about how their words are coming across or even take the time to make sure what they are saying is accurate. In a perfect world when people critique something they would say what they dislike and what they like. For example, if a writer receives praise that consistently mentioned how great the featured articles section of the site was, the writer/site owner would know the featured articles are a draw to the site and might even receive suggestions through the praise on how to improve that section of the site. Negative criticism works the same way.

Negatives Viewpoints Don’t Have to Stay That Way

You can’t please everyone simply because it will come to a point where what is being asked of you will go against the goals of your site or the requests begin to conflict with one another (for example, some users request more articles about science and another group of readers prefer the site stay as is). This doesn’t mean negative criticism should be ignored. Many times ways to improve can be found in negative criticism.

For example, I recently wrote an article that clearly is negative criticism (ironically I wrote about negative criticism and how someone reacted to it just before that). In my article I stated my initial thoughts and I gave points to support my position. I wasn’t mean in my article, matter of fact I had compliments in the article about the people in general (vs. the business practices I was speaking of) but my article was negative criticism. After Scoble responded, I responded and asked my audience what they felt would be a good way to improve the situation (84th comment). The article started negative but turned into everyone trying to come together to help. By posing the question I flipped the situation from negative to positive. Good/positive energy can come from an originally negative review. How one responds to the negative feedback makes all the difference.

Seriously, You Can’t Please Everyone

Some suggestions you receive may go against the goals you have for your site. This is a decision everyone eventually has to make – whether to continue on with your goals or change them to please your audience. The guys and I do not sacrifice our core goals but we will implement feature requests if they are not in conflict.

An example of changing – going back to the original 9rules. This is something we felt current members would benefit from since people associate the leaf with a blogs not conversations. To stop the brand confusion the 9rules site will be returned to member only content April 30th. Our current members earned it. Of course it gives us a reason to have a brand new design. :)

An example of not changing – the participation agreement change. We knew it was going to tick some members off. We thought about it, realistically thought of the reactions to it, how it would impact our long-term objectives…then sat on it for awhile. Came back to it weeks later, the decision still felt like the right one, I drafted the revised member agreement as per our conversations and sent it to the guys to review. I held onto it for almost two weeks before sending it out just to make sure it still felt like the right decision. Then we waited for the reactions we knew were going to happen, and we were about 90% accurate on that so there weren’t any surprises. We knew some people wouldn’t like it but we also knew some would understand where we were coming from so we stuck with our core values and goals for 9rules.

Tyme, Why Are You Writing This?

Every round I have to remove sites because they didn’t realize how the increased exposure would impact their site/life. Every round…I’m serious. Let’s try to avoid that this time, ok? So here are some tips:

  • Realize that some people might like your site and some might not. Focus on those that support what you are attempting to accomplish but be very aware of the negative feedback.
  • Take a neutral look at the negative criticism and see if there is validity to it. For example, if people complain you have a zillion widgets on your site and it slows their browsing experience down, take that very seriously, even if you do not experience the same results yourself.
  • Realize that your boss, your parents, in-laws, ex-boyfriend and girlfriends, people you detest, your elementary school teachers, the bully that used to beat you up in school, the person you’re having an affair with, your nosy neighbors, etc. might one day find your site. Consider your worst case scenario (the people you don’t want to find your site) and imagine they found it today. Would that be ok?
  • Remove the things you never thought anyone would see because no one reads your site or the people you talked about that you thought never would find your site. Or the link to your best friend’s site that has a link to their Flickr profile which has pictures of you hanging with the your friends on the night you told your significant other you were at your parent’s house.
  • Think very carefully about the personal information you have on your site. Do you REALLY want strangers to call you? If not, remove your phone number. Do you REALLY want strangers to stop by your house? If not, remove your address.

Increased exposure can bring drama to your life. Be careful what you wish for.

  1. Devin Says:

    Really good and important article. There is a sad truth about letting the world see you, the world then sees you — not everyone will be in love. I for one have developed a thicker skin and have had knuckleheads from my past find me today — both good and not.

  2. Ollie Says:

    As Devin says, an important post and well-written, Tyme. As a newcomer to 9rules at the last round in late 2006, I’ve found my site gain further exposure, and therefore criticism. It isn’t always easy to deal with the negative, but is an important part of being online. I’ve learned to take some things on the chin, hold my hand up and admit a mistake and/or privately email someone asking for further clarification of what they meant. Often, if someone leaves a criticism on my site, I’ll email them and ask for more details if they can give them. Often, they’ll respond with really helpful ways to improve whatever it is they feel needs improving.

  3. Tyme White Says:

    Thank you! It’s one of those things that people often do not think about until it happens and might not know how to handle it.

    Ollie that is very good to do. Hard sometimes but the benefits of gaining a better understanding can pay off big time.

  4. Alisa Says:

    Thank you for this, Tyme! It’s really helpful and explanatory. A lot of times, what some people think of as obvious, really isn’t. That’s why this is so helpful.

    :)

  5. Tyme White Says:

    You’re welcome. :)

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