As podcast hosts, it is your right to express your opinion in your show. However there will respond with a negative be people who will be responding in a negative perception. Podcast haters and trolls feed on podcasters who not only have no way to deal with them but also respond back in anger feeding the negative energy. These trolls and haters live to antagonize people and actually find it amusing when a hateful conversation blows out of control. You lose if you don’t respond, and they win once you do. One way around this to take time and check out these haters and trolls, respond with politeness instead of anger. Make it personal and make them realize they’ve made a mistake.
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Podcast Trolls and Haters Survival Guide
We’ve got a subject that not a lot of people like to talk about when it comes to their own podcast because they want everyone to love their show. I want everyone to love my show too. I’m no different than any of you. There are going to be people out there that don’t like what you’re doing and are pretty negative when they communicate with you. We thought we’d talk about some of those types of people and how to deal with them. Especially how to deal with them because there are times at which you want to make a response and times at which you don’t. This is really a fine line. This happens all the time with my Inc. column. We get a lot of hater comments. We get a lot of Twitter trolls. You’ve got to find a way to deal with them and not encourage them, which is also a big thing. I also want to address out there that it’s not any safer to be a woman or to be young because we do have some kid podcasters out there. Those attract a lot of negative comments from all over and you may find yourself in those situations. We want to bring it to the forefront and talk about that.
Podcast haters are probably easy to define but we’ll put a little definition on it. What’s a podcast troll? A troll is anyone who’s really out there. This is what their whole purpose is. They are like the mythical creature troll. They’re out there antagonizing people. They’re trying to stir up negative comments. They’re trying to stir up that animosity amongst people. Part of it is just for shock value and people hack websites because they can. Part of it is it doesn’t really matter. You think about what’s going on and you have millions of followers on Twitter and they follow you because you’re nasty to people. That’s really how it works. They’re being egged on by the following that they have for this. They’re encouraged to do more of it, whether it is going after a very specific demographic of people. There are and I’ve been a victim to them many, many times, there are trolls out there that victimize women on Twitter, women on LinkedIn, and they come after you. It doesn’t matter what your subject matter is. It doesn’t matter all of that. They basically are out there antagonizing you about things hoping that you’ll bite, and then they can stir up and start a nasty conversation. It’s in that nasty conversation that the fun happens for them. You have to recognize when you see a pattern of that.
A lot of times I do this where I will check them out. If somebody has made a comment and I am not 100% sure, it’s not just they truly don’t buy in to my position which I have no problem with or they are starting a conversation that they want to start in an innocuous way that will build into this troll conversation that you see happening many, many times. I usually go and check out their Twitter page. You can see what they posted and what they comment on another people. When you see that, you see this pattern of nasty commenting and re-sharing and all of this other stuff. It happens and you go, “I don’t want to participate in that.” You can basically report the comment, which is something you can do if you’re on social media. You don’t have that ability though, and this is really where I want to be clear about this, in your own comment field unless you set that up or have control at the backend of your own WordPress site, which I highly encourage you to have.
You can control the comments that get even posted, but there are certain places at which you can’t. You can’t stop the comments from it. You won’t be able to stop them in your iTunes subscription areas. When somebody subscribes where they leave a rating, you won’t be able to take them down. You have to report them and they’d have to be inflammatory or violate the iTunes rules in order for that. There are places at which you don’t have a lot of control over them but at every place that you do, take control. Either delete the comments or don’t continue to further them. Add a lot of comments so they drop down further, you can do that. Have more tweets happen for the day and they’ll drop to the bottom and no one will see them. You can do that. On your WordPress site, you can treat it like spam and have them delete it and you have them taken out.
A lot of people will come back to you. This is one of the things that happens a lot of times with trolls and haters. When you delete their comment, they realize it’s gone, they come back and they harass you and your site for being unwilling to deal with controversy or being unwilling to deal with other viewpoints other than your own. They start to try to call you out and egg you on in that way as well. I’ve also gotten it personally into email. That’s really where it feels really personal and it hurts a lot and it’s really hard not to respond once you get one in email. When somebody sends you an email criticizing or trashing your show, when you receive anything like that, that’s the haters out there. That’s where you get haters. They’ve taken the time to email you and they email you venom. It happens.
It’s really unfortunate especially if you’re a new podcaster. The first time it happens it can really be a punch to the gut and you don’t know how to deal with it. It shakes you and makes you question the validity of what you’re doing with your show initially. That’s something that I want to talk about. I have no problem with constructive criticism having an intelligent, informed debate with somebody who doesn’t agree with me with something I talk about on my show. Issues and topics, it’s fine when you get into things like that. This has happened like, “Your voice annoys me.” It’s not, “The recording levels aren’t nice and not professional. It’s hard to listen to.” “No, it’s your voice that annoys me.” That’s where it really trips into being haters. To me, that’s not productive because you’re not going to be able to change your voice. What are you going to do? If you really don’t like it, if it’s that annoying to you, then don’t listen to the podcast is my answer to that.
We’ve dealt with some controversial subjects in some of our podcast at times in the past. We’ve dealt with guns and bump stocks and other things that happen in 3D printing. We’ve dealt with that kind of things so you do get a lot of controversy. Plus because we’re in a tech world, we get a lot of very, very opinionated people, which is constructive. It was probably one of the least troll-like ones, but it could have tripped into that. We had a debate about whether or not you could edit code and it would be considered design. We seriously had a long debate. In some circles because it’s a very niche topic, we came out with a title for our podcast that is Design by Coding is Not Art, making a statement like that and definitely some people really disagreed with that. What I find is this happens a lot with my Inc. column. It has more to do with the headline and the sub-headline and less to do with someone actually reading the whole article. This is where you want to be really careful with how you title things because when you title things sarcastically and/or title them as you really are going to take the opposite position from what the title is, then people don’t read enough. They don’t listen enough. They just get pissed off. That’s where you can have a lot of that happen.
What I do is when I see that though and that happens and typically I will make the comment of, “I invite you to read the full article or listen to the full podcast because I agree with you. It’s not this. If you listen further, you would have realized that was the position we were taking.” You can call them out on that, which is good to do if you want to leave that comment trail or especially if a bunch of other people have started jumping on the comments. You don’t want to shut it down because that makes you look like you aren’t interested in debate. You want to go in there and just invite them. Don’t do that in a comment to a comment. You do it straight up as the next comment in the row because you want to push those comments down on the bottom. That’s another thing. Just make sure to do that, whether you do it on Facebook or you do it on your own comment feed on the blog page.
I want to talk about how you might go about handling it. More often than not, when somebody responds in a knee-jerk reaction way and spew some venom out at you, oftentimes they haven’t listened to the whole episode. They are reacting to only a portion of it or to the title not having really listened or the description of the podcast. That’s unfortunate because as a podcast host, when I know I’m going to be discussing a controversial topic, I really try to diffuse any potential haters right upfront. I say, “This is a controversial topic and I wanted to be clear that I’m not taking a position for or against this aspect of it. I want to talk about the realities of this other aspect of this issue,” and try to keep everybody’s understanding and the discussion you’re having with your audience more productive, and usually that works. If they actually listened to the episode, people will express their opinions, “No. I don’t agree with you. Coding is design. Here’s why.” We can have a good, productive debate about that and that furthers the conversation. That’s the type of thing we like to do. I actually enjoy that.
Sometimes you have to look at this as you’ve hit on something that isn’t an important thing to consider. You have to look at your show from our perspective of monetization if that’s your goal and/or brand value, whatever those two things might be because it’s the value of the show. Whether or not you are able to take advertisers and sponsors and/or it’s creating value for your brand and what you sell, your services or your coaching or whatever the program is or whatever services you offer. Those two things are building value or you wouldn’t be doing this or you wouldn’t be listening to our show because that’s what our show is about. It’s really how to build that value for yourself. When you think about it from that perspective, having a negative going on in that is not an invited thing unless it’s important to the brand value of where you’re going. That is that you are that kind of person who’s a mediator. You are that kind of person who can turn a negative into a positive. If that’s who you are and that’s what you’re about, then you dive into that. That makes total sense there. Advertisers really like to shy away from that. They call it negative keywords.
There is a way at which you want to dive into negative keywords and people do it, but you have to do it in a very different way. For instance, Route 91 in the Las Vegas shooting. That was a high-level negative keyword going on. People are searching for that because they want information, but it’s not a positive thing that they’re doing. Associating your brand with that, if there’s not a purpose, not authenticity and not a reason to do it, can backfire on you by the comments that you’ll get back from supporters of survivors. They’d be like, “You’re just jumping on the bandwagon. This is terrible.” Veterans, whenever you write something about veterans, it can backfire on you if you’re just really doing it in a gratuitous way. These are the things you have to be really cautious of because that kind of backlash can hurt your ability to monetize later. Sponsors are very, very cautious of that.
Right now, this is why there’s huge devaluing going on in YouTube channels because they have banned anything having to do with violence and lots of advertisers block those negative keywords. If there’s associated with you, you might get your whole show blocked on YouTube from being allowed to take advertisers on that. That could happen. It’s highly unlikely to happen in podcasting because of the way that the shows get sponsors. Especially in our system, the way that we do it because you’re in control of that process. Any sponsor would know you. In our case, we did talk about Route 91 but my sister is a survivor. There was a very personal reason for having that discussion and I had her permission. It made sense that we were talking about it and we were talking about it in a positive light as to thinking about your responsibility in that. We were looking at it from a very different perspective and anyone who would go to place ads on the show, they may prefer they didn’t place an ad on that particular show which we can block out, but knowing us they would not have said, “The show, I don’t want to touch it. They’re too controversial.”
We were very upfront. We did that in a very appropriate way with that episode. It was relevant to our podcast mission and subject matter in general and Tracy had a personal reason for wanting to do it so it was worth doing. We made a statement very much upfront, “We are not making a political statement for or against the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. That is not what this episode is about.” Diffusing anyone saying, “You are talking about this because you don’t want the Second Amendment.” We didn’t want to get into that kind of debate. It didn’t matter whether we were actually for or against the Second Amendment. That wasn’t the issue. To take that off the table, the most controversial element, then you can get into the deeper subject that makes it worth it, where there was a lot more common ground in general between people out there in the podcast listening universe so you can handle it. That’s what I always try to do. I always try to take the high road when there are people that disagree with things that we have to say. We welcome the disagreement. We always say that, “Let us know your thoughts. We know you’re not all going to agree with us but hopefully we can have that civil discussion and keep it productive.” Generally, the listeners always do that especially when we know we’re getting into a potentially, touchy subject, we try to do that.
That’s where I think that in a sense our ads system has an advantage. If there is a brand that wants to sponsor a show and they don’t want to be associated with controversial subjects around sex or around violence or they just don’t want any of the shows that have explicit content in it because they are a family, friendly company or a brand, we have the ability to block those and move the episodes around it and being able to say, “Don’t place that ad here.” It gives you a lot of control and a lot of flexibility so it makes brands feel a lot more comfortable with it. You do have to be aware of that when you have these negative comments start happening on episodes that you didn’t expect it to happen on. That’s when you get into this issue of, “What have I stepped in? What’s going on here?” That may be where you decide that is a subject definitely worth addressing in the comments, but addressing in a very constructive and non-antagonizing way and then making another episode about it. That’s what we did. We’ve done that a few times. You can follow up with another episode about it and just say, “I said this at the end of the episode and somehow I stepped in something that I shouldn’t have and didn’t explain my position really well. I’d like to explain that now. Because this is a hot topic, let’s have a constructive conversation around it,” and/or invite one of the counter points, the counter opinions, invite someone knowledgeable in that to come on and talk about their position.
I always find that when people out there, podcast listeners, people who visit your website and read your blog post, it is much easier for them to be negative, controversial, more harsh in expressing their opinion about what you had to say when they do it over social media or in an email than if they’re talking to you actually live in person, on the phone or as a guest on your show. There’s something that I’ve noticed over the course of our careers that started happening about 1995. It’s my earliest recollection of the emergence of the internet at being this shield, to get your shield out holding people back from you. The internet and email especially was the first way it started happening because text message weren’t around then became this buffer zone for people expressing their opinions. It used to be you had to write a letter and that took a lot more effort. You’re going to write a nasty letter to someone and mail it. You had to take a lot more action to make that happen. Then email, “I just have to type something up and push a button. It’s a lot easier.” Then chat boards and bulletin boards, all sorts of things and then text messages and now social media.
While in some ways it’s a double-edged sword because when you put something out there in the internet, you almost can never take it back. It lives there pretty much forever and you’re branded by what you say on the one hand. On the other hand, you have things like Yelp and people leave reviews there and Facebook and Twitter and all these places, and on your iTunes, there are ratings and reviews. There are places in which it will happen and they’ll be very negative. The best medicine is really to load it with better comments ahead of time. That’s exactly how we do it on Amazon all the time when we’re doing product. We get better reviews in and we comment on it and we drop them to the bottom so that they have less value. That’s one way to do that.
I just do really want to touch on the email though, because it can be very personal because that still feels like someone took the time to write you a letter. It feels like that. I have been the recipient of a couple of really nasty emails. It has always shocked me, I wouldn’t say brazen because I think that emboldens them too much, how little regard for the fact there is a human being at the other end of that email that most people have. In Twitter, I get it. People just type stuff, it’s 140 characters. They barely spend three seconds on it and they type dumb stuff. That’s very apparent in the world, which is one of the reasons why we drop Twitter as a business. We were just, “It was of little value. People weren’t spending enough time so there was no quality conversation going on, so why keep doing it?” It didn’t feed into our brand and what we want to do. It didn’t feed our values. That’s why we dropped it. On Facebook, we have much better conversations all the time.
The reality is that I don’t see it happening as often and I think it’s because there are actually a little more social controls on Facebook. In other words, if we’re good people, we provide a really good value through our shows and we have lots of friends and family and associates and other things, they’ll jump on and say, “You’ve got Tom and Tracy wrong.” They will jump on the negative comments before it happens. It’s when it happens in a private message or when it happens in email that it really, really feels hurtful and hateful. That’s where we get these podcast haters. They are specifically targeting demographics. They’re targeting young kids, millennials who are maybe a little green. They’re targeting a lot of women making really overt overtures. I get them all the time on LinkedIn, which just shocks me to no end. I get these emails that are basically women-hating emails basically saying that I should shut up, get in the kitchen and let Tom talk, and that I shouldn’t have an opinion. You’ve got to address it straight because it feels too personal.
What I have chosen to do is I certainly don’t out them. It is not worth it. It’s not my personality to do that. I do personally respond and then email back to them and say, “I’m sorry that maybe some woman hurt you really badly, but my show is free and I invite you to not listen.” That’s basically the way I chose to address it. What that does and other techniques like that, what they really do is hold a mirror up to that person who made that statement. I think a lot of times people, while they are definitely communicating their opinion and they didn’t like something and it’s generally negative, I don’t think they always are completely conscious of how what they’ve written will be received. It’s often received in a much more negative and harsh light than they intended. Whereas if they had a conversation with you in the same room, your facial expressions, your posture, your tone of voice as you communicate back and forth gives them a feedback loop that they realize, “What I was thinking? I’m not going to quite say this harshly. Maybe I was thinking about it the wrong way.” A lot of things happen in real time like that that don’t happen when you’re having a one-way communication like an email, like a Twitter post or a text message, whatever it may be. That’s where technology I think has hurt human communication in a lot of ways and made it harsher.
I also think in a way that there’s also this idea that we must have some social management group. There’s always a shield and that it’s not being received personally so they can be more harmful and hurtful and it just doesn’t matter. That’s how it has always felt. I owned a store for tween girls up in Northern California for a while. It was called Pure Girls. We used to have these fun glam parties. I used to get nasty emails all the time about putting makeup on five-year-olds. It was a little bit of glitter. A lot of glitter in their hair, but a little bit of glitter on their face or a little bit of lip gloss. It was fun, we had fun parties. It wasn’t all five-year-olds. It was mostly tween between eight and twelve, it’s probably our biggest age groups. I used to get nasty emails from parents about this on how it wasn’t appropriate. Honestly, a lot of them actually weren’t parents. We’ve got the emails from people who weren’t parents because mothers were in there all the time.
What happened is that you started to realize that they were treating the emails that they were sending in the way that they were sending it like there wasn’t a person at the other end, that there was a corporation at the other end. When you respond back, you enlighten them to the fact that, “I’m a mom with three daughters.” At that time, I only had one but, “I’m a mom with a daughter. This is what we’re doing here and I invite you to come in and check it out because you’ll see it’s in good fun and in good experimentation and good taste. There is none of that going on. If you actually walked in here, you would realize that.” In our case, we were fostering this big sister environment so we had teen girls working with tween girls so it was like a mentorship. It was really a cool way to go about doing it. One of my daughters is named after one of those big sisters. That’s how well it worked. You get into this position in which you really don’t need to explain yourself, but you invite them to come in and check it out in a more detailed way. You’re calling them out on the fact that they aren’t doing that. The nicer way of saying that is you’re illuminating to them that maybe they were having a knee-jerk reaction to this. If they took a little bit different perspective, thought about a little different way, maybe they wouldn’t have chosen to say what they said in the way that they said it. That’s really what this is about.
This is just a good cautionary episode. We have some of our customers, we have some new podcasts coming up that aren’t launched yet, but are treading into some controversial territory that definitely can breed these kinds of comments and communications. I don’t want to give too much away because these are new shows that I’m going to produce yet, but things that tread into government conspiracy theories, polarizing ideas and topics that can be seen in a certain way. You just want to always think about that. Just because you, as the host, are thinking about it in a certain way in your mind that it makes perfect sense and you think it should be perfectly benign to everyone out there, realize that different people will see things different ways and may not see it the way you do. On certain topics, you may want to preface the discussion or if not preface it, close with some diffusing statements that don’t diminish the way of your message in which you want to communicate, but instead help take things off the table that you really didn’t intend. Like, “We’re presenting one view point. We’d like to present you more.” Those are other ways that which you could do it. “This is one episode of three in which we’ll present you the three different viewpoints.”
You want to be cautious of that and cognizant of that when you have a topic that is like that because you are not the recipient of it. You’re not the listener. You’re not the receiver of it so you don’t know what baggage they’re bringing to that as well. It is sometimes surprising to you. When it surprises you, you need to take it in a constructive way. You say, “I didn’t mean it that way or I did mean it that way but I didn’t realize how it was going to be received.” I want to be clear here. I’m not suggesting that you as a host do not express your opinion. I think expressing your opinion is very important, and it’s your right as a show host. This is your show. You don’t have to deal with the networker who’s going to put it out there or not. At some point, you may have to deal with potential advertisers that may or may not want to advertise on your show. That’s something for you to consider but certainly in the beginning of a show, that’s not as usually as big of a limitation. Express your opinion. Just be aware of how others may perceive what you have to say and the backlash that might come from that, and that’s okay. Bill O’Reilly started a podcast and I guarantee you, he’s probably getting tons of mail that had nothing to do with the show topics. Tons of backlash just because of who he is. That can happen to you as well. We have a couple of sports figures. If they have a bad season, their fans might go nuts. You just don’t know what’s going to happen to you. We just want you to be prepared about how to address it.
My three guidelines for you is number one, just really check out who they are and if this is a pattern for them, just don’t respond because you’re treading into what is a podcast trolls’ territory. Sometimes, less is more. Just ignore them because that’s exactly what they’re going for. In that, you get caught up and they win. They win in the traffic, you lose every time. Then if it is valid, take it for what it is and say, “You opened my eyes. I really need to rethink this. I’m going to do a new episode.” Invite them on the show. Whatever that might be, but take constructive criticism well. If it truly is a hater who is just doing some hurt, then find a way to respond. Don’t do a gut response back. Let it marinate and think about the appropriate response that is constructive back. Even if they’re not constructive, take the high road. I have found every single time I have done that, it had shut it down. They usually are too embarrassed to respond back again. It hasn’t mattered whether I did it on social media or whether it happened in email, they will not respond back once that happens. Taking the high road is always a good thing. Politely, even if they haven’t been polite to you, pointing out what they may not have considered when they wrote it. More often than not, they’re embarrassed and they just don’t want to continue the discussion because they realize they made a mistake. They don’t have enough integrity to apologize and own up to what they did, but at least it ends at that point.
We want to give you some fuel and preparation for it because the more you feed your brand, the more negativity you might attract. That’s an unfortunate side effect. If you’re a new podcaster, please don’t panic about this. This doesn’t happen that often. In total, we’ve recorder 550 episodes across our couple of podcasts, somewhere in there 600 episodes. Honestly, I thought we could count them on the fingers on one hand maybe. There are a lot of comments we don’t ever allow on the blog post that just get deleted off of there. We haven’t even touched on spam because you get a lot of spam in there too. We get a lot of comments that never even make it to it so we would never see it because we cut it down before it gets there. 500 or 600 episodes, now is we’ve got to be close into a million total downloads, total on all that. Out of that, you say less than ten people. It doesn’t happen that often .This is for those of you that haven’t experienced it yet. When it happens the first time, it’s going to shake you to your core. It’s like an earthquake or seismic event happens at your show. Don’t let it be that because it’s really not. Hopefully, this will help you deal with it. If you need someone to bounce it off of then write to us, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.
Believe me, they will involve many phone calls to your life coach after that because you’ll be like, “Is this really true about me?” It will still feel right in your soul but you can bounce it back and you can bounce back from it and sometimes it makes a better show. Controversy is one of the major things that makes people listen. It’s not necessarily to be avoided. Just be prepared, I guess that’s what we’re saying. If you have anything you’d like to share with us or a topic you’d like us to cover, we invite you to reach out to us on social media @FeedYourBrand or on the website at FeedYourBrand.co.
Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next time with another great episode. This has been Tom and Tracy on Feed Your Brand.
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