“Oh my goodness. Can you believe the nerve of that blogger who dared to disagree with that thing that you said? I know what it is. They just wanted more traffic, so they’re leeching off your popularity. By criticizing what you said, they must be trying to rank in the search engines for your name, because you’re just so popular. They expect you’ll link back to them in an angry huff too, sending some of your own traffic their way. But you can outsmart them. Just ignore them! They’ll go away.”
Have you ever thought something like that when you saw a controversial blog post about you or a favorite blogger? Sure, I exaggerated a little bit to make a point here, but I’ve actually heard bloggers make these kinds of arguments for why people who write controversial blog posts are just great big meanies. They act like people who tend to disagree with them or call them out on the stupid things they say are simply malcontents, never happy with anything, as if the only way to be happy is to fall in line and become one of their little reader minions or paint even the most blatant stupidity with a rosy glow (and let’s face it, we all say stupid things occasionally). To them I say “sorry sweeties, but you’ve got it all wrong.”
Let’s take a deeper look at blog controversy, especially the kind directed at another blog or blogger, and talk about how to deal with it.
Blog Controversy is not a “Bad” Thing
Are there some bloggers who attack others solely to get attention? Absolutely. Does that mean that everyone who calls you out from time to time is just out to leech off of your blog’s success? No. You’d be hard-pressed to make a case that even most people writing controversial posts, about you or otherwise, are just using them as stunts to gain traffic.
Controversy is good. It doesn’t mean people are out to get you. It doesn’t mean other bloggers hate you just because they disagree with you, even if they disagree passionately. Even if they really don’t like you, there’s probably another reason they’re writing controversial posts — they have something to say!
How boring would the world be if everyone agreed all of the time, and we never had serious discussions or debates? Without new and different ideas, not only would we be incredibly dull, but we’d suffer from a lack of innovation. I wouldn’t want to live in a world like that. Would you?
Life is full of controversy. The blogosphere isn’t any different, and I’d argue that it shouldn’t be. Not everyone targets the same audiences with their blogs, and there are often many other ways of looking at an issue, depending on which audience you’re targeting.
Not only might another blogger genuinely have different ideas, but their ideas might be better. Yes, you might be wrong from time to time. By blowing off opposing views because you find it easier to feel victimized than look at yourself in a constructive way, you condemn yourself to more “attacks” in the future. When the other blogger is targeting a similar audience, their motives are probably much less about pissing you off and much more about doing what they feel is best for their readers. If that means calling out hypocrisy and what they feel is bad advice from others, then they should absolutely do it. If they don’t, they’re simply being complacent or they’re unaware of what’s happening in their own niche or industry, and that’s hardly helpful to their readers.
We’ve established that sometimes blog controversy is a good thing, because it’s how ideas are spread and how opinions are swayed. We’ve also established that the motives behind controversial posts about you or your blog probably have less to do with you than the other blogger’s readers. But how should you deal with controversy and attacks on other blogs? While that varies depending on the situation, here are a few tips to point you in the right direction:
- Evaluate the blogger’s motives. – Is there any merit at all in what they’re saying? Forget about your audience and think about theirs. Does it makes sense for them to share those opinions with their readers, or is it completely irrelevant and nothing more than an attack for the sake of attacking you? Controversy doesn’t always have to be “nice” or sugar-coated just to spare your feelings. Are you letting your emotions over the criticism cause you to overreact and jump to the blame game?
- Do a self-check. – Did you say something hypocritical? Did you say something completely illogical? Might you really be wrong about something? Be honest. You might not like the fact that the criticism is at least sometimes well-deserved but like I said before, everyone says stupid things from time to time. I’m not an exception. You’re not an exception. No one is.
- Don’t play the victim. – Nobody likes a whiny blogger with a “woe is me” attitude all the time. Either there’s merit to your viewpoint and you can defend it when confronted, or there isn’t (and you should be able to acknowledge that). If you made an error, fix it. If you’re holding firm in your beliefs, that’s fine too, but state why (in a comment, on your own blog, etc.) if it’s appropriate to do so, and leave it at that. Acting like people are only out to get you just entices them to criticize your behavior even more.
- Know when to respond and when to walk away. – Responding to every controversial or criticizing post about you or your blog will do little more than stress you out and waste your time. Then again, ignoring all criticism and controversy makes it look like you’re living under a rock (not a good sign to your readers). Seek balance. If it’s just a flat out personal attack that’s completely irrelevant to my blog’s subject matter, I prefer to ignore it and blame it on a bad day the other blogger’s having. I don’t let it get to me. If they criticize or question a piece of professional advice, I see if there’s merit to their argument (in the context of my own target audience). If so, I either comment on their blog, respond on my own in a new post (if it’s a longer response), or respond to their comment on my blog if they commented rather than writing a new post themselves. Your strategy can certainly be different. Figure out what works for you.
- Know when to make it personal (and when not to). — I don’t mean you should ever make a personal attack in response to a controversial issue related to your blog (as in a debate about business finance advice turning into a “yeah, well you’re ugly” kind of pissing match — completely irrelevant). I mean you have to know when it’s appropriate to name names, and when it’s better to tackle your side of an issue without the one-on-one element. Here’s my policy. If I know the other blogger can act like an adult and actually have a constructive cross-blog debate, I’ll mention their name and link to their controversial post. If I know the blogger acts like a whiny brat crying about how everyone who criticizes them is so mean, trying to make them out to be some kind of martyr while they in turn take subtle shots at others, then it’s a different story. In that case, I’ll still share my views (probably even more aggressively), but I won’t bother mentioning names or sending traffic their way. Why? Because I don’t have the time to deal with the “oh, poor me — you’re just trying to ride my coattails” garbage that often results. The other scenario where I’ll not name names is when I’m writing a controversial post or response about an issue that’s hotly debated industry-wide. In that case, there might be so many people sharing the same opposing viewpoint, that my response simply isn’t in reference to one of them — it’s a more general commentary. Again, that’s just an example of how I choose to handle certain types of blog controversy. Your policies might be entirely different, and that’s okay.
- Be willing to learn. – Whether you like it or not, that controversial blogger probably isn’t the only person who feels the way they do. They’re just the only one (or one of a few) willing to be vocal. Others avoid controversy at all cost, and never share their own views publicly. In other words, some of your readers probably agree with them! If what they’re saying makes sense, consider it. If they’re more experienced than you, learn from them. If you still don’t agree with their underlying points, that’s fine. You might be right in that case, or it might be an issue where two different views can both be “right.” Just know that in those situations you might still have some readers who need convincing of the merits of your own viewpoint. If you’re blogging to be an authority source in your niche or industry, it’s important to let your readers know where you’re coming from, whether or not they ultimately agree with you. Leaving lingering doubts might make them question whether or not you’re really worth listening to when it comes to the issues that matter to them.
Remember, blog controversy isn’t always a bad thing, even when it comes to attacking and debating other bloggers’ ideas. It’s a part of a larger conversation. How you choose to be involved in that conversation is up to you and your audience. Misjudging motives, throwing a perpetual pity party for yourself, and covering your eyes when controversy comes along mean your audience is going to get information on those topics elsewhere. In this blogger’s opinion, it’s better to have a voice. After all, if you have nothing to say on important issues in your niche or you can’t back up your views when occasionally confronted then why are you blogging in the first place?
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