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No Accountability, No Peace

August 23, 2015

More than ever, Americans have parlayed the relative anonymity of the internet into what could be called the world’s largest critic bandwagon where they (the amateur critics) are the stars. The jury is no longer out: everybody’s unsolicited and unqualified opinion now suddenly matters, including the guy blogging from @livinginmomsbasement and it drives big online metrics.

The scary thing…even without much accountability from the sources, your clients are listening.

No surprise, we’ve been very well trained. Radio shows encourage callers to “have a take,” that “take'” most often some critical rant. American Idol, X Factor, Dancing With the Stars and RuPaul’s Drag Race are huge hits along with other, often cruel, “judge-dominant” shows. Sure, the performances of the finalists can be entertaining, but the auditons…oh how we devour the auditions! “Whew! Simon’s gonna rip HIM a new one!”

Internet as “Virtual Permission Slip”?
Whatever you may think of Simon, at least he does what he does “as Simon” and in front of millions of viewers. A good portion of the identity he walks around with every day — and runs to the bank with — is his, that he created. He’s accountable. The guy whose triple soy latte wasn’t exactly 138 degrees one morning and YELPs harshly about it, not so much.

In a Wallstreet Journal article, ‘Internet On, Inhibitions Off: Why We Tell All,’ Matt Ridley writes:

When the medium is impersonal, people are prepared to be personal.

Deep in our psyches, the act of writing a furious online critique of someone’s views does not feel like a confrontation, whereas telling them the same thing over the phone or face to face does. All the cues are missing that would warn us not to risk a revenge attack by being too frank.

So, blogging or it’s close cousin high-profile reviewing with no (or little) accountability, “feels” extremely safe. And predictably, the floodgates are officially open and it’s time for business to intelligently and consistently respond.

Embrace The Dragon
If critiquing (often simply thinly-veiled complaining) has become the new chic, your customers’ low-accountability opinion slinging can be the torpedo heading directly for the bow of your identity…an identity not easily reversed (have you ever tried contacting Yelp?).

Certainly, customer feedback matters. That remains undeniable. What’s noteworthy, is that with the “e-bullhorn” of Social Media that same feedback is now extremely public and extremely unfiltered. Whether you agree with it or not, you best learn about it fast and begin to actively embrace it or hire a team to guide you through the process before the ball of yarn cannot be untangled.

Face it, some (not all) folks are chronic complainers. You hand’em a $10 bill and they’ll wonder why it isn’t two $5 bills instead (“Simons”). Surrender to that and focus on what you can influence which may develop into a significant percentage of potential marketeers for your business.

Mark Morton is “Project Master” at (Don’t Worry) It’s Handled…an expert resource helping small- to medium-sized businesses thrive in the toughest markets.

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