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I like opinions, I have many of them every day and, usually, I express them. Who knows me well will tell you how much I can’t stand people who don’t have their viewpoint, or they can’t say them aloud. Nevertheless, all these opinions have something in common: they are told to people who care about them, or they usually concern things that I believe to know a bit about.
Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t really know how much other people like to judge as well and how much of an urgent need they have to express what they think. On top of that, technology gave all of us the opportunity to express our thoughts to a way bigger audience than our circle of friends or colleagues and to expose our ideas far beyond what used to be in the past. However, social media and similar tools gave us also the chance not to feel responsible for the words we are saying, not to back them up with field knowledge or to avoid putting ourselves in the shoes of the person we are interacting with.
Few weeks ago, I had my first experience of what it means when you get this kind of exposure on social media. Indeed, an article about my company (www.twostay.work) came up. The article was for an important magazine in Germany with coverage in the founding scene and startups (you can read it here if you want to: https://www.gruenderszene.de/karriere/twostay-coworking-cafe-hotellobby). Until here it seems quite a good deal. True! Just until this article landed on Facebook. Tons of comments came up and I think one, only one, was positive. I didn’t really ask for any of those but I got them, straight in my face. Let me quote some of them.
( I will include also my first impulsive reaction, probably not the most mature I have had but still…it hurts!)
“Which drugs do people actually use to come up with such crazy ideas”,
Thank you for the interest, I am pretty sure I was not on drugs when I came up with this, but if you have any suggestion, happy to hear it for my next venture! Such a valuable input, I am glad you took the time for it.
or Mr. B, a serial founder, and Forbes under 30, is complaining:
“Crazy … 4 acquired locations in a single city and a WordPress site are already enough to get an article in Gründerszene (the previously mentioned newspaper)” .
Oh dear Mr. B, if you would know all the things we still do manually, you would have written a medium article yourself rather than a simple comment. Anyway, since you were so upset about our website and you look expert, we are still looking for a software developer, PM me!
Finally, the world famous startup coach and sarcastic Mr. C wanted to stress the fact:
“The world has really been waiting for that … With these ideas people call themselves self-employed”.
You are so right! Self-employment is so awesome, not being able to pay your rent at the end of the month, traveling 12 hours in Flixbus to visit a potential investor or waking up in the middle of the night sweating, thinking of your next moves, so much worth it to have “Founder” on Linkedin!
So, as you can tell, my first reaction was of pure discomfort and anger. Yes, quite some anger. And this although I know how Facebook works. I knew this could happen and still, it just hurts a lot when you see those comments written and addressing you, personally, and what you have been working on for almost 6 months. Knowing it didn’t prevent me from reacting heavily on it. Still today I wonder if these persons thought for a second who may be reading their comments and how they might make them feel. We also have received so much good feedback on the article: many new subscribers, investment requests and approval messages and calls. In my mind, in one short second all the positive reaction was gone.
I thought, obviously, nobody liked our product.
We definitely suck.
No reason to go on.
After this dramatic reaction, I have looked for ways to handle it in the best way I knew. Here’s what I came up with, I hope you will find them useful if you ever find yourself in this situation.
Angriness and jealousy are emotions based on impulses, whoever feels them usually needs to acts fast and without a ratio. They don’t last and they vanish with time. Expect your haters to give you all the shit in the first moment of your exposure. After a while, only people appreciating what you do will reach out – for us, it still happens after weeks. Your commentators are probably already busy providing feedback to someone else. So just hold on until it is gone.
Comments mean engagement and engagement means traction. No one cares how it is generated as long as it reaches who needs to listen to your message. In fact, 10 bad comments are way better than a single good one. This is simply how social media work, they can’t say if your post is good or bad but simply note if people talk about it. Those 10 comments will allow your target audience to receive your post straight in their face when they open the channel, and if the message is relevant for them, they will see it.
The day after, I went through the list of comments and check all the profiles. Out of them, I took the ones I thought relevant, I got on my phone and asked each of them for feedback. What I got out of it was extremely valuable. This helped me a lot in understanding what we did wrong, consider aspects we didn’t take into consideration or just to learn who are not going to be our target customers. Some of those people didn’t understand what we really did, therefore we probably failed in communicating our message easily enough. Others didn’t believe in our business model from previous experiences more or less similar to our business and others they just don’t agree in a future of flexible working.
Did you get 10 negative comments? Well, go out and search for 10 positive opinions. They don’t need to be public. If you can’t find them, you are maybe following a wrong path that you want to reconsider. Just turn back to the previous cross-road and maybe take a different decision or look for different ways you could do what you do. Reconsider doesn’t mean giving up. Pivot and blend your idea until it finds the right place — we are still doing this, every day!
Always remember that as soon as you take a position, do something that is valued, follow a passion, take a chance of changing (part of ) the world — people will talk. Maybe because they lost their challenge or because you reminded them that things can be different from what they know or just because they have a lot of time since they are not busy having a dream.
If you do, just close the Facebook window and continue.