How about when those fans label your girlfriend a 'monkey abortion' on social media, a racial slur, while sending you vials of their blood?
This is the double-edged sword of engaging directly with the masses.
In every seminar about crowdfunding or social media engagement, the pundits repeatedly espouse the benefits of "direct communication with your audience."
This direct relationship will make you special to your audience, allegedly. It will separate you from the pack, the experts say.
But they never mention the dark side. The tidal-wave of trolling and general bat-guano craziness you open yourself up to.
Sometimes it's totally unwarranted. A lunatic parade borne out on anonymous message forums.
But sometimes, you deserve the criticism. Perhaps you made a mistake. Perhaps, like 'District 9' and 'Elysium' director Neill Blomkamp, you "f**ked it up".
And now, you have a direct communication portal with your audience. An audience VERY willing to let you know about their displeasure.
Could you handle it?
An interesting feedback loop took place recently, involving the company GLAD in Australia. GLAD manufactures cling film, a rarely critiqued but frequently used household item. You might think that the users of this product wouldn't be all that protective of its design or identity.
You would be wrong. So very wrong.
GLAD made this mistake. The company relocated the cutting bar on the package to a new location, one that required 'tearing the cling film upward'. To me this seemed like a design flaw, so I googled it to find out why the change had been made.
All hell had broken loose.
GLAD were inundated with a torrent of negative feedback and abuse via their social media channels. People posted horror stories of poorly wrapped lunches. Memes were created satirising the 'rip upward' suggestion. And oh, how the complaints rolled in.
Brow beaten and publicly shamed, on their own communication channels no less, GLAD did the only thing they could. They backed down with a public announcement on their Facebook page. The tone changed instantly. Relieved commenters opined that the product 'shouldn't have changed in the first place' but were satisfied that people power had prevailed.
And then, amid the stream of positivity, there was:
'What about your snap lock bags that don't reseal?'
The joy of open communication with your audience.
So, the question ultimately returns to you. Could you cope with this sort of unbridled discourse with the hoi polloi?
The mistake that GLAD made was not in refining their product, although that part was questionable, but in creating communication channels they thought were only one way. Old world thinking in a new world paradigm.
Do you genuinely want to communicate with your audience, for better or worse?
If you want the communication to be unilaterally directed, then good sense would steer you away from tools and forums that open you up to questions from the world.
Do you care what your audience thinks about your work?
You can be open to the feedback, if you believe in its worth, but you have to be prepared to genuinely make this communication loop a part of your process. People will sense when you are disingenuous.
Or do you just want a convenient means to sell or promote to them?
These are the questions you must know the answers to before you go down the path of audience engagement.
Then, choose the communication platforms that are right for you and your approach.
Be genuine. Be sincere.
And most of all, never - ever - start a conversation you have no intention of participating in.
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