What Constitutes Negative Publicity?

We see no evil, hear no evil, and say no evil.

We see no evil, hear no evil, and say no evil.

Lately, I’ve been reading posts from folks who complain about “negativity” on Facebook and Twitter. That surprised me because I haven’t seen anything that reeks of flaming, my idea of negativity, so I began speculating as to what constitutes bad publicity. My balloons and I had a long discussion about this, and basically, their philosophy is, “See no evil, hear no evil, say no evil.”

They had a point.

For starters, I listened to Jonathan Maberry, Don Lafferty, and other greats discuss the technique for posting and branding, and their message was clear: avoid negativity in your posts at all costs. I thought about the time I posted when Mike or I was in the hospital or having surgery, wondering if sickness counted as an offensive post. Don assured me not to worry, that people friendly with me would want to know that I’m okay. For that matter, friends would also sympathize with the death of someone close or the loss of a job. So…what constitutes a “bad boy” post?

Political discussions seemed to top the list. Many of our Congressmen create controversial images; people either love or hate them. My thoughts? I keep my opinions out of Facebook and other social media. It’s easy to stay out of discussions about politics on-line and in real life.

Persistent “buy my book, shoes, blah, blah, blah” posts turn people off. Not sure about Twitter, but Facebook polices this one pretty good. Of course, when your book is released, you want to tell people where it’s available. People who know and love your genre will want to buy or at least consider buying. But most of your posts should be about general topics. The experts recommended a ratio of general to “sell” posts of about six to one. This is meant as a guideline, not an exercise in math. The general posts should include topics that other people would find useful and/or interesting.

Bashing a book or company generates bad publicity for everyone involved, including the person who writes the post. My mom once said if you can’t find anything good to say about someone, don’t mention them at all. She had it right. If I read a book I dislike, I won’t review it. There are few stores I avoid, given the balloon factor, but if a place truly gives me the creeps, I just don’t go there. If I had true concerns about a book or store, I’d rather communicate my thoughts in a private email.

Most people don’t set out to hurt anyone. Their intentions may be good, but they might not realize the impact their words have on others. I learned about intent versus impact when I had diversity training at work.

So…what might people consider useful topics? Human interest stories, such as what you see on the news. Example: CVS started marketing Somnapure, an herbal sleep-aid (it works – I use it myself). Lots of folks would give their eye teeth for a decent night’s sleep, but dread the thought of addictive prescriptions, so they would appreciate hearing that they could buy a good sleep aid without any dangers of addiction at their local pharmacy. It never hurts to wish someone a happy birthday. Facebook makes this easy by listing people’s birthdays on your right column under “events” on a given day. Perhaps a good joke would bring a smile. My balloons gave me more good advice: consider how I’d want to treated when I post. Dang, I knew they were smart!

So…have you found a lot of negativity on social media? What kind of posts do you find unpleasant? What kind would you like to see? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

About Barbara Custer

Author of: Twilight Healer Steel Rose Life Raft: Earth City of Brotherly Death Close Liaisons Infinite Sight When Blood Reigns Infinite Sight Publisher / Editor of Night to Dawn Books & Magazine
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  1. I used to post political opinions, but I’ve found that they offended some people, so, for the most part, I stopped doing it. I like when my friends post information about their books so that I can see their latest work. The only thing I don’t like is when people ask me to play games and I get too many requests. But that’s my fault. I should make it known that I don’t have time to do those things. Thanks for a great blog entry!

    • I’m glad you mentioned the games. People ask me to play games, also, and I don’t respond because of time constraints. Maybe I should let people know I don’t have time, either. 🙂

  2. I review books for a literary site. Sometimes you have to be negative. The idea is not to be Jerry Springerish over the top but to present coherent and defendable reasons why this particular piece is not up to snuff. As writers we need honesty not fawning praise. Same with publishers. We have a hefty readership and I believe, unless I am deluding myself, that our readers enjoy our honesty.

    On Facebook I have been outspoken politically and it has hurt me with certain publishers. They have told me so. That’s fine. I believe in freedom of speech not politically correct censorship. My work can stand on its own without the help of my head in, or especially my mouth full of, sand.

    As the song says, ‘I am what I am, not what they want me to be’.

    • I agree with you about the freedom of speech and opinion. Alas, a novelist got arrested for writing a controversial SF tale (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/09/in-cambridge-md-a-soviet-style-punishment-for-a-novelist/379431/) and I think that’s really sad. For book reviews, if I really had issues with the book, I would contact the author and let him or her know. Reason I’m leery of posting negative book reviews is because I know of a debut author who’s book got a series of bad reviews. Very few people write a Pulitzer Prize winner the first time out, right? However, their book sales tanked afterward, and their writing career was sidelined for quite some time. Hence my deciding not to publicly post a review on a book I don’t like. 🙂

  3. Why all the negativity about negativity?! Seriously, I don’t like the idea that we make our FB pages as anodyne as possible. I’m impressed by, rather than out off by, people who have the courage to stand up,politically speaking, and say, ‘This is wrong’ (or right, as the case may be). I agree with Tom about personal attacks – they have no place on social media. But pretty much everything else you describe as a no-no are the things that make posts and blogs stand out as interesting, and start debates and discussions.
    Oh dear, ‘human interest’ – are we really going for the lowest common denominator every time? Now that I find far more offensive than politics. But then I come from a slightly less Conservative country, so maybe that’s playing a part here. I was really surprised and disappointed by your post as it doesn’t seem like the feisty, exciting, daring-to-try person I’ve come to admire from the blog up to now. So should I have kept quiet? Is this too ‘negative’?
    I can see why, on a blog devoted to a particular topic, you’d want to keep it on-topic. For instance, if your blog is about antiquarian books, then yet another debate about abortion or the death penalty probably isn’t going to be helpful in any sense. But the idea of making one’s personal FB page free of politics and religion suggests self-suppression to me. Is your message, ‘Keep silence on the beliefs that are most important to you, in case people disagree’. I have friends of all faiths and political shades (well, most) and we manage to get along, on FB as well as everywhere else. Learning to disagree publicly and constructively, in friendship, is one of the most important life skills there is. There isn’t enough of it.

    • I appreciate your candor, Cathy. PA (at least where I live) is an pretty conservative area, and the authors who preached abstinence from posting political opinions grew up in PA, too. So the conservative background plays into my post in a big way. At a dinner table among coworkers or friends, I will gladly get into a political debate, but on line I stick to general topics or updates about Mike (my husband). That’s where I’m at right now. But you’re right about learning to disagree being an important life skill. 🙂

  4. I dislike nasty comments about politics, religion and farming practices. What I find offensive is the assumption by the poster that all right-minded people will agree with the opinion. Most of the comments are opinion masquerading as fact and many of the “proofs” offered are unbalanced. It’s sort of “I don’t agree with the policy X has introduced, therefore, X is evil.”

  5. I review a lot of books on my Blog, and sometimes it’s hard NOT to say something negative about some of them. I clearly state on my Blog what I will not read, and what I don’t like in a book, yet publishers continue sending me stuff they shouldn’t. When I review a book, I do look for the good to comment on, but for instance if there is an overuse of sex or language, I might comment negatively about it. Read my Blog, and you’ll know what not to send me. I reinforce this with the publishers every so often, hoping they will take me seriously. So far, it has done little good (sigh). But my negative comments have not stopped them yet. Now personal attacks are a different story. Never attack someone you don’t like on your Blog. I’ve had to kick Members off my Yahoo Groups for this. And I don’t allow religious and political arguments to start. My religion and politics are my personal beliefs, yours are your own, let’s keep them to ourselves.

    • I agree, Tom. I’ll gladly share my personal beliefs in a private email with someone, and might even debate something at the dinner table, but I don’t think social media is a place to post it. After work, I’m usually pretty tired, and political debates take up energy I just don’t have. And when you post your specs on what you’re willing to review, people gotta listen. Thanks! 🙂

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