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Can being positive in social networks diminish your reputation?

02 August 2010 | social-media | 4 Comments Can being positive in social networks diminish your reputation?

Social networking is now a common way for companies to connect with their consumers. They communicate about news, products, opinions and more in hopes of meeting their goals (sales, customer service, branding, etc.) in these online networks.

There is an emerging theory coming from people who have recently signed up for a Facebook account and are now “social media experts.” The theory is that you should always be positive in your communications online. You should share inspirational quotes, you should tell good news, and you should only focus on telling people good things and not the bad. People subscribing to and espousing this idea say that people don’t want to be around negativity, so you should only exude positivity.

On the surface, this is a fabulous idea, but there is a huge difference between being optimistic and glossing over the truth. Excluding negative news from your social networking efforts, no matter your goals online is lying through omission.

In reality, the overly optimistic, sugar coated social media users stand out, not as a beacon of hope as they intend, but as an example of someone who is not credible. On Facebook, tech pundit Brian Carter said, “If all you do on FB is promote your crew, and you’re ALWAYS positive, then you lose credibility in my eyes. I simply don’t believe you because no one is always positive. So you’re editing, and you’re just a marketing version of the real you. Lame.”

On the same hand, no one wants to be around someone who is always negative, that’s the same lie by omission. So we recommend a balanced, honest approach to social networking so you don’t diminish your or your company’s reputation.

Let’s say that you own a Honda dealership and one of your models is being recalled and the media is spinning it out of control.

  • If you’re in the school of positive only, you would likely choose to put your Facebook page something about how wonderful the weather is this weekend and how people should come down and enjoy a free TV with every test drive.
  • If you’re in the school of negative only, you would gripe on Twitter about what jerks the media is and how they’re victimizing you as a small business person trying to stay afloat.
  • If you’re balanced and honest, you’ll probably write a post on your blog about the recent news and in your analysis outline that business will continue for you and what recourse you offer your clients. If they’re unhappy, you’ll trade their recalled car in for them and waive commissions (or whatever), or you’ll repair their car for free.

No one wants to read a bunch of inspirational quotes all day (unless your company produces inspirational quote posters, mugs and shirts as their exclusive product) and no one likes a miser. In an honest approach, you don’t gloss over bad news, you address it and say what you’ll do about it.

CC Licensed image courtesy of Flickr.

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4 Comments for this entry

  • meanrachel
    August 2nd, 2010 on 11:04 am

    I think people who complain about people “being positive” all the time are really just complaining about people being unauthentic. And let’s face it, the world is full of people putting on fronts, both socially and professionally, in person and online. The patterns of unauthentic personalities are just easier to notice when they’re in writing (in the form of “My life is perfect” status updates all the time).
    So as for brands and individuals who are wondering whether to “go positive” or “be negative,” why not instead think about what my personal motto suggests:
    “Whatever you do, mean it.”

  • Ted Mackel
    August 2nd, 2010 on 11:54 am


    It’s more about being realistic and the hard part about telling people the way it is, it’s very hard not to come across negative.

    If you are a home seller and the avg sales price for your neighborhood is down 30% would you like to know that or hear fluff?

    My biggest struggle daily is how to couch what I want to say so that people trying to make decisions and choice have all the information to make those decisions and choices..

    Looking at Simon Cowell – even though people see him as a meanie, he really is doing people a service telling them to move on with their lives and find something else to do.

  • Jennie
    August 2nd, 2010 on 1:00 pm

    I tell people to have positive interactions, even if it is negative information. I post good and bad news, thoughts, ideas, and emotions all the time, but I keep my interactions with people positive. If every time someone interacted with you and they had a negative experience, do you think they would be coming back for more?

  • Vicki Flaugher
    August 2nd, 2010 on 2:39 pm

    For me, I think it’s just as often online that people are negative just to catch buzz or vent rather than authentically feeling that way. Same problem as the superficial positive, although I personally much prefer the positive approach when it’s real – I do get as tired of a constant stream of disaster news or fear-based selling tactics as I do cheer leading rah-rah. And, for pete’s sake, can we frigging ease up on the quotes? Be quotable or stop shilling Ghandi – seriously! Of all the stuff you could choose…

    Sometimes what I read seems to be a modern day version of road rage online – just like your car makes you feel safer to be a bully same too does anonymity and even (gasp, dare I say it? ) some attention seeking branding efforts. Snarky is cool when snarky is cool but it isn’t always and it certainly takes a commitment to it if you’re going to brand yourself down that path.

    I’ve come to have a healthy respect for controversy – it’s part of the sales process to trigger differentiation. The main thing for me is do it on purpose and conviction, do it with flair and gusto, and do what your target audience needs to hear in order pick you. Relevance to your audience and the alignment of your mission with that audience are pretty much the only deciding factors. IMO.

    Vicki Flaugher

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