Outrage Sells. But So Do WMDs

I’ve been trying to write this article for a while, and never been able to structure my thinking in the best light. Today, for whatever reason, I think I’ve nailed it.

See, I mostly write about recruitment.

But recently, that’s meant writing about personal branding and social media.

One thing I’ve noticed a lot of, since spending my waking hours on LinkedIn, is people have very different versions of ‘personal branding’.

That is, ideas of what constitutes engagement and therefore self promotion.

I’m convinced LinkedIn finds the worst of it.

But where some people share the inane. Others solely advertise. Where some seem to offer value, others share posts designed to wind you up.

What drove me to a sudden bolt of understanding was a tweet from one of my least favourite people in the world… the ex-Editor of The Mirror.

A man who deals in public outrage.

That’s it.

That’s what he’s selling. He wants you to be absolutely livid about stuff. A lof of the time, that’s him.

But in reality, it doesn’t matter what you’re angry at, as long as you take him along for the ride.

These days, he sells that outrage on Twitter and online media. Back in ‘the day’, it was print.

‘The day’ I’m referring to, is the day he got found guilty of forging photos of British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners of war, knowingly presenting it as real news. He was rightly sacked, and the outrage he created dissipated.

This year…

Tweet Piers Morgan

This isn’t a new thing. Either for ‘news’ outlets or that individual. Or it seems, people who habitate LinkedIn.

“Outrage sells” they say.

And they’re right.

People like to get annoyed. Particularly online. And in setting sail to the international waters of Outrage, just off the coast of Annoyance, you’re likely to find gold.

The treasure of online engagement, will be yours. And all the riches that come with it.

Riches like… hate, vitriol, business failure, personal brand destruction, infamy, job loss and future woe.

Just ask someone like Katie Hopkins. Honestly, I can barely bring myself to type her name, knowing by doing so, I’m fuelling the fire. But apparently she’s just ‘sold her home and is on the verge of bankruptcy’ due to a libel claim.

“Oh how fun” you think. “She’s finally got her comeuppance.” 

Except, she’s in the ‘news’ again. As this article entitled ‘Speaking my mind cost me my career’ explains, presumably sold to the highest bidder, in this case The Sunday Times.

So what price do you put on outrage? We know it sells.

But so do weapons of mass destruction, and they don’t have a particularly good public image either.

Where’s the line?

At what point you become abhorrent, and not just someone ‘doing social media well’?

I’m going to stab at an answer now.

Hunted Outrage

Split your audience

This is something a lot of social media gurus will tell you ‘does well online‘. If you can get people to support their idea and it’s opposing to others, comments will flood in.

This is good.

Your interactions on LinkedIn will tell you this. You’ll have one of those splurges of thought which someone disagrees with and messages of support start rattling your DMs.

A little difference probably is a good thing. I actually quite like it when someone disagrees with me. I find it interesting to try and see another point of view. Where this stops is when someone just says “disagree!” Or tries to plant a stake in the ground with no genuine background.

I mean, have some conviction mate FFS. What do you disagree with? Why? Any evidence to back up your witty retort or nah?

LinkedIn may not be going the way of Twitter just yet, but unless you can articulate your disagreement, what’s the point of disagreeing?

The ‘mark’

Some people purposefully overstep the mark.

The mark is creating outrage for the very sake of outrage.

That’s it.

Nothing more.

It’s creating news stories out of fabricated photoshops. It’s pretending to cry with the queen on Twitter, when your own media activity trod on those you’re now supporting.

It’s describing refugees as cockroaches.

To wantonly overstep the mark on social media, you become synonymous with hate.

Hunted Outrage

The positives

Firstly, I’m going to be honest and say this… take the approach above and you will get noticed online.

Your following will grow and so will your engagement. Providing you have no business hoping to ride on the coat tails of that engagement, you’re golden. Go nuts.

If you can separate your business activity from the person you are online, you may even flourish.

If you, let’s say, have a team of people writing your media, or get a kick out of waking up to 187 notifications, all negative, again please continue.

I’ve seen plenty of people perform like this. And those people can all make their online persona a part of their marketing activity. It makes no bones to their clients how they get their publicity. So the format works.

Now, for balance, some negatives

Things on the internet do not go away.

As someone who does a lot on the internet, I know this. For me, once a conversation goes over 24 hours, I’ll probably be bored of the topic. Especially if the commenter does nothing but echo a previous opinion.

But if your audience isn’t done, neither are you, friend.

You’ll have to continue rebuffing those people, or supporting them, or discussing the same topic, until they stop.

Because, if you do just stop, for no reason, and don’t respond, why were you doing it in the first place?

It’s free engagement and you might not get that again?

When the people you want to comment, start commenting, and think you’re ignoring them, they won’t stick around for long.

Now let’s say this happens on a normal post, which doesn’t push any boundaries of outrage… that might be a tad grating.

But what happens when your post gets doused in wrath? I’ll tell you… that 24 hour period of activity will be multiplied by 7, and last all week. And it will all be directed at you, not the topic your discussing. This WILL affect your mental health.

I can’t see any other outcome than a severe attack on your wellbeing.

The weird thing about this is, you almost can’t even address another outrageous post without falling foul.

So, let’s say you’re someone who shares a Daily Mail article on LinkedIn. You post the link and the words “Thoughts?”.

What you’re doing there is trying to profit from someone else’s hate. But it’s still hate.

You’re not the entire opposition for hate. You don’t represent all that’s holy. Just like I don’t, when talking about Messrs Morgan and Hopkins. People will still see through this and relate you to the topic. Hence my struggle in articulating this very article.

Hunted Outrage

How do you get rid of OUTRGAGE! from your media?

This is something I’ve pondered a lot.

What’s the best way to not let yourself be wound up, by those who are profiting from your reaction?

Block them? That’s a popular one. But is it cheating you of knowing the opposition? Is it just burying your head in the sand and honing your echo chamber?

The absolute worst thing people like this (in my opinion) would want is this… people see their stuff, and do nothing.

I mean, take either of the two people above. Imagine if they tweeted, and all of a sudden, they got no likes, no re-tweets, no comments, nothing.

Wouldn’t that be rather amusing?

There are millions of people that happens to, and nothing bad seems to happen. They just go about their lives and do whatever job they have. Probably in something that adds value to the world more than hate.

Be yourself

The best strategy online is doing just this.

No one can copy you when you’re yourself.

In fact I can’t say it enough. Whether you’re writing a job ad, sending a tweet, or trying to sell a car.

I’d bet a rather large amount of money you don’t sit there in public, in real life, trying to verbally provoke all those within earshot. You’re probably quite nice, when it boils down to it.

I describe the perfect job ad tone as “one glass of wine down, chatting to a mate”. Because in that scenario you’re a touch lucid, talk in no uncertain terms, focus on positives and are honest.

Now imagine you’re in that same pub, moving on to your second glass and Katie Hopkins walks in.

If there wasn’t an awkward silence before looking away, I’d be amazed.

Now… go and do the same online.