The Likability Trap
Ask any company what their biggest concern is about social media and the majority will have the same answer: “What if people say bad things about us?”
My standard response to this question is, “People are probably already saying bad things about you. You just don’t hear them.”
But my full answer is something much more unsettling…
People are not probably saying or thinking bad things about you, right now. They ARE saying and thinking bad things.
(Not a whole swarm of people, mind you. But one or two people, at least.)
How do I know this?
Because no one person or company can please everyone, all the time. Ever. That’s just the law of audiences.
Go search for the most beautiful performance you can find on YouTube and, I promise you, there will be at least one person in the comments saying, “Eh. It was kind of pitchy for me.”
(I’m not talking about trolls here — though, there are usually a few of those, too — just people who aren’t wowed.)
Those of us who’ve spent some time up on a stage have seen the law of audiences in action for ages. After awhile, you learn to get a thicker skin and move on. Companies, however, are new to interacting with their customers and clients, up-close and personal, 24/7. For them, learning to live with people who think, “Eh. I’m not impressed,” is a harder exercise.
But you gotta learn to do it anyway.
Everyone in the world, please love me.
Companies tend to do one of two things when they realize that some people don’t like them. Both responses are a waste of time and energy…
1. Try to win over the haters.
I’m not saying you should ignore people with a legitimate beef with your company. Talking to those folks is always a good use of your company’s time. What’s NOT a good use though, is fixating on converting those few non-fan holdouts, as if their opinions are the precious commodity that will take your company over the top.
A better use of your time is to turn your attention to nourishing the people in your network who already like you. Using search, content and social media marketing, it’s easier than ever to go out and specifically communicate with them and transform them from mere fans to brand advocates. They, in turn, can sell you to the holdouts, which, ultimately, has more impact than doing it yourself.
2. Try to appeal to the masses.
Sanitizing your content so it appeals to the widest possible audience may seem like a smart way to get everyone to like you. But, that’s not a content strategy, it’s a crutch.
Content that is created to speak to everyone will invariably make an impact on no one, and can make your company something much more dangerous than unlikeable…it can make you boring.
(And, on the social web, where information that entertains, informs, entrances and inspires is whirring past people at a breakneck speed, 24 hours a day, boring is the kiss of digital death.)
A better use of your time is to make your content stand out from the crowd. Innovate with your ideas. Share your opinions and your perspective and encourage people to argue with you about them. Say something no one has said before. That’s the kind of content that will help you reach your goals, not the mission-statment-y, jargon-ridden corporate babble of which most companies are so fond.
Let’s agree to disagree.
No matter what, accept you and your company for who and what you are. And accept that impressing the majority of your audience is as good as it’s ever going to get.
As author Alan Cohen says in his book, Why Your Life Sucks, “You won’t be able to get everyone to like any one thing you do, and you won’t be able to get any one person to like everything you do. So give up your quest for universal admiration right now; it’s is never-ending, infinitely frustrating and it sucks.”
What about you? How did you handle it when you found out someone didn’t like you?
Give up the quest for universal admiration, huh? I’M NOT CONVINCED.
Just kidding. I only want all the good, nice people to like me. The icky people can go ick away in their rotten corners.
Also, great post. Thanks!
I think “The icky people can go ick away in their rotten corners” should be my new life motto. 🙂
It’s better to be disliked that not paid any attention. The biggest fear of a company today should be ‘what if nobody says anything about me?’.
I totally agree. Now being liked AND paid attention to, that would be ideal. 🙂
Nice hearing from you. Hope all is well.