Can being mean get you seen?

My car’s in the shop. That means I’m walking and taking transit a lot more than I usually do, and that means I get to catch up on my podcasts.

Yesterday, I was listening to John McLachlan’s Full Bleed Arts Marketing Podcast #7 (I figure prominently in #6), an interview he did with Julien Smith of Julien is a Montreal-based social media dude (we don’t use the word guru around here), and co-authoured (with Chris Brogan) a little book you may have heard of called Trust Agents.

It’s a great podcast, and I’d encourage you listen to it yoursef. You should know up front that Julien’ language is a little, er, colourful, just in case you get offended by stuff like that, but I personally loved his post called Five Effective Ways to Use Twitter… Ahhh… F*%k It!

For me, what was really inspiring about the post was all this talk about how we, generally as humans, and more specifically as

Nice, eh?

Canadians, want to be liked, and want to belong. And social networks give us that opportunity. How popular are you? You’re as popular as the amount of friends you have on facebook. It’s like revenge of the nerds for those of us who were uncool in high school. Your social success is now judged by the amount of friends you have on Facebook, or by your Twitter followers.

Julien blows all of this out of the water. He talks about taking risks, most specifically, the risk of failure. What if I write a blog post or a tweet, and it’s bad? Careers have toppled. The internet never forgets. Danger Will Robinson!

But Julien argues that we are actually too cautious, and that cautiousness is holding us back from living a life “out there” which is interesting and exciting, and somes bad because we made a mistake, but it’s not the end of the world.

He talks about polarising your audience. We are so afraid of losing friends and pissing people off or hurting someone’s feelings that we play the fence. I do this all the time in my blog posts: I’ll present both sides and allow the reader to choose without really taking a side, even though I totally have a side. Julien is encouraging you to take sides and to polarize your audience. Will  you lose some people? Yep. Will you piss some people off? Oh yeah. But at least you are being truly truthful, and transparent, and isn’t that what this whole era of social media is really about?

Also, interestingly, folks who take one side or another (whatever they may be) tend to get more hits. So, in a way, being mean (if you want to view it as that) can get you seen. I’m not encouraging you to create controversy just to get numbers, but I have to say, I really admire folks who have the balls guts to say what they really  feel. Because I am Canadian. And a female. “Be nice” is engraned into my DNA.

Do two things today. For me. First listen to the podcast. Then do one thing that takes you out of your comfort zone. One thing that makes you feel uncomfortable. It could be Julien’s method of social skydiving, or it could be something else: post a controversial tweet or a Facebook status, or write a blog post, or try Uni. But just try it. And see what happens. And then maybe post your experience in the comments below.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 5

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast with Julien. I think you’ve reiterated really well about how “nice” we all are most of the time.

    As I’ve gotten to know Julien I’ve learned that how he speaks on his blog is how he speaks all the time. For me, I rarely speak (use the language he does) that way but I do occasionally so for me, it’s all about speaking like I speak normally.

    I find we tend to take our rougher edges and sand them down which often results in blandness and “sameness.” It’s why, when reading posts on the Net, many start to sound the same after awhile. That’s one of the biggest challenges I have with my blog, but it’s a fine line between writing for dramatic effect near the edge and going over the edge.

    I’ve been inspired by Julien since I first met him when he spoke in 2009 in Vancouver about “touching the burner.” I think his message that resonates the most with me, is that there is little to be lost from trying things, risking and generally going out there. The cost of failure in our world is very low but we think it’s high and as a result we essentially try to fit in with everyone else.

    We do this, because that’s how we were taught in school. The problem is, we aren’t in school anymore and we’re not children. We need to stop acting like children.

    You challenged us in your post today so I wrote a post as part of your challenge where I admit my fears.

  2. Great post! Truth and transparency are beautiful. Maybe being polite makes you more widely acceptable, but what good (or fun!) is that?

    “If you would be unloved and forgotten, be reasonable.”
    Kurt Vonnegut

  3. I don’t totally agree with being controversial for the heck of it and trying to split your audience etc. But I do agree that if you are really true to what you genuinely believe, you will probably generate discussion or possibly controversy. In other words, being honest often winds up generating debate because it takes courage to speak your truth….

  4. I’ll definitely be pushed out of my comfort zone during the screening of my short film tomorrow at the Women in Film Festival… we are a part of the talk-back session after and hopefully people will have enough of a response to the movie that they’ll want to ask questions, or make comments…

    My director, Lisa, firmly believes that it is better for someone to hate her work than to be on the fence.

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