“If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success.”
– Malcolm X
It’s a fact of life. The more successful your website, the more likely it is to receive criticism. As Malcolm X points out, this can almost be regarded as a good thing. After all, nobody would feel the need to criticize unless your site had some measure of importance. Still, critics often represent a vocal minority that can do serious damage to your website’s reputation. It’s important, then, to know how to deal with them.
Don’t Attack Your Critics
Awhile back, I wrote an article on DailyBlogTips.com about how to deal with flamers and trolls. I talked about remaining calm, accepting valid criticism, avoiding censorship, and never stooping to their level. The common theme among these points is to never attack your critics.
Why? Because, no matter how much damage a critic does to your online reputation, counterattacking will only do more. Consider the following two scenarios:
- You attack your critics. Your critics comes right back at you twice as strongly as before. You attack them again. They attack you again. Before you know it, you’re locked into a cycle of negative reciprocity from which there is no escape. After the flame war has passed, your online reputation is little more than a shriveled shadow of its former self.
- You attack your critics. Your attack actually manages to stifle their negativity. Because of your approach, however, you are left looking sensitive, juvenile, and/or insecure in the eyes of your audience.
Either outcome results in further damage to your reputation. It’s a lose/lose situation.
Empower Your Advocates
Of course, your audience includes more than just critics. You probably have more than a few advocates as well. These loyal fans will defend your site on its merits and attack critics on your behalf, often without notice or reward.
The only problem with advocates is that they are often the silent majority to the critics’ vocal minority. Advocates are pleased with your site. As such, they rarely feel the need to speak up. It’s just a fact of human nature that dissatisfaction elicits a more outspoken response than satisfaction.
The trick to online reputation management, then, is to engage and empower your advocates. Get them to speak out, either by singing your site’s praises, denouncing its detractors, or both. Don’t force it, of course; you’ll only be seen as less genuine by soliciting positive reviews. By inviting advocates to weigh in on the discussion, however, you can turn the reputation battle in your favor. Here are some ways you can “rally the troops.”
- Converse Outside Your Site – Your advocates are talking about your site elsewhere on the internet. Seek out these hot spots of positivity and add to the conversation.
- Facilitate Sharing – Add social media sharing utilities (e.g., Digg, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, etc.) to your website so advocates can attract like-minded friends.
- Feature Testimonials – Solicit testimonials and success stories from advocates, then feature them prominently on your website.
- Get Social – Give your website a face by creating profiles on Facebook, MySpace, and similar websites and befriending your advocates.
- Send Thank You Emails – Advocates often praise your site without expecting to be rewarded. By letting them know that their positive feedback was noticed and appreciated, you encourage them to repeat it.
- Sponsor Competitions – Offer a prize for a competition related to your website (e.g., best fan video).
What do you think? How else can website owners encourage and empower their advocates?