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Guest

Social Good Is In, Negativity Is Out

By: Guest | January 30, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Ifdy Perez.

There is so much good in this world, don’t you agree?

I love HuffPo’s new Good News section because I get to start off my day reading and curating inspirational stories to my online community of do-gooders.

In fact, just this morning, I read a story about how a daughter was able to postpone the foreclosure on her parents’ home by writing a letter to Bank of America.

How awesome is that?!

But amidst the social good stories, I’m swamped with a cloud of negativity that follows me from blog to blog. Total #buzzkill.

Call me naïve, but I don’t understand the reason for it. An explanation could be that unfiltered access to Internet + free speech (with little or no consequences for those actions) makes it easy for us to bash others online.

Still, we’re drawn to reading those articles and jumping on the “Hate Train” for some reason. 

Negativity Sucks 

It really does suck us into a warped state of mind. A place where we can easily hurt others even when we don’t mean to. If we really understood how our negative comments or blog posts affected the person we’re talking about, chances are, we’d hold off on hitting the submit button.

Beyond that, framing ideas and criticism in a negative tone hinders the effectiveness of the message you’re sending. If you’re anything like me, a list of don’ts just makes me want to do everything on that list (OK, I’m exaggerating . . . just a little)!

Positivity Attracts

I work in the social good/nonprofit world and, man, I love the anti-hero stories I hear from nonprofits every week. How cool is it that a Detroit Diaper Bank put a call out on Facebook for an emergency stash of diapers, and BAM! An anonymous donor left it on their doorstep.

Or to hear a small, urban children ministry was budgeting a $60,000 deficit this year and in the last quarter of 2011 raised nearly $80,000 in one day.

Why Don’t We Hear More of These Stories? 

Positivity is more effective in doing good than negativity does. Positivity can do wonders. It can inspire, change, and build people up. And if you don’t believe me, check out what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson from the University of Michigan said in this GALLUP interview:

Positive emotions don’t necessarily narrow people toward a specific action, like negative emotions do. Positive emotions . . . broaden ways of thinking beyond our regular baseline, and they accumulate. And that broadening . . . fuels self-transformation and allows people to learn new things about themselves or make new connections with other people.

And so through broadening, people build their personal resources: friendships, styles of connecting with people, knowledge of their own abilities, or even physical health and strength. They build a wide range of different resources that, in the long run, end up functioning as reserves that help people cope and survive.

If you’re still a skeptic, then you should know it’s a scientific fact people feel good after doing good.

Have I convinced you yet?

This brings me back to the question of why we don’t hear more positive stories.

We are terribly underusing the power of positive storytelling in our campaigns and community building tactics. Inspirational stories about people making a big difference in our area of interest reinforces what we’re asking our audience to do in a unique way. These stories inspire people to be part of a larger change-making movement.

Take for instance Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington. This was the first region-wide social good, online giving campaign that raised more than $2 million for more than 1,000 area nonprofits. But what’s most impressive about the campaign is nearly 18,000 people gave to a cause they cared about within a 24-hour period.

Would a series of negative blog posts and comments be able to pull that off? Hell no. But the work those nonprofits did to reach supporters with success stories worked its charm.

Negativity permeates the online world and as individual users, we don’t need to add to it, especially if we’re in a position where we have influence. So as community managers and social media strategists, we can take the extra effort to genuinely inspire our communities with positive stories, and give them the tools and direction to engage with us.

This, my dear, is at the core of a successful social good campaign.

What do you think?

Ifdy Perez is the community manager for Razoo, an online giving and fundraising platform, and editor of the Inspiring Generosity blog, which offers nonprofits inspiring stories, tips, and information to help them rock in social media fundraising. You can follow her on Twitter @IfdyPerez

34 comments
Shonali
Shonali

Ifdy, I do agree. I guess what tires me sometimes is the "barfshining" I see in SM - that everything's peachy, everyone's great, everyone's a rock star, blah blah blah. No, it's not, no, they're not, and no, they're DEFINITELY not. That said, I really like the way @Andrea T.H.W. talked about being positive or negative and the results thereof - I'm a huge believer in that.

But getting back to your question, I suppose people like to bond over something to bitch about. And the media report them because they attract hits [sic]. We're all guilty of that - take gossiping, for instance. I'm trying to do better on this front, which is why I'm trying to cut the ranting down on my own blog (though once in a while I just have to vent!). Personally, I'd love to see more positive stories/posts, and am going to try to do more myself.

And congrats to you and the entire Razoo team - you guys totally rocked #Give2Max (and that is a DEFINITE rock!).

Andrea T.H.W.
Andrea T.H.W.

Being positive doesn't guarantee positive results, being negative does indeed guarantee negative results. Better go the positive way when we have at least 50 percent chance of positive results.

Beautiful article.

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

Ifdy, may I just say I thought the sincere piece was awesome...actually, REALLY awesome.

Negativity, especially when it comes to blogging/marketing/and content....is NOT a business model.

In fact, I think of it as 'The boy who cried wolf business model'. ---Eventually, no one listens.

I think it's fine to disagree and point out certain things online, but I'm not cool being being a jerk, name calling, etc. That's where I think we need to draw the line.Showing respect is critical.

Also, I find that we quickly make judgements in this space when we don't actually 'know' someone.

The fact is, if we ever personally talked with the folks out there that we tend to go after our points of view would likely change a good bit, as we would catch a glimpse of the real person, and not just the writings behind the face.

Anyway, props to both you and Gini for posting this.

Marcus

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

I thought this line from the study was interesting: "Positive emotions don’t necessarily narrow people toward a specific action, like negative emotions do."

We're testing that very theory on Spin Sucks. It seems the "moron awards" and case studies that show companies screwed up do better than the ones that show what went right. But then I wrote about FedEx and how they handled their crisis so well and that blog post went through the roof. It might very well be in how the good stories are written and shared that makes them popular...not the stories in and of themselves.

Still testing so I'm not ready to stake that claim. Yet.

pfine1
pfine1

Well, I wonder! The congenital skeptic in me positively recoiled from Ifdy Perez's guest post on Spin Sucks! Yes, it's great, I guess, to get one's day off to a good wholesome start by reading inspirational stories. But never saying anything hurtful about anyone on his or her blog? C'mon, Ifdy! The only way truth will emerge, wrote John Stuart Mill, is for every idea to be vigorously defended and discussed in the marketplace of ideas. Under such a system, someone, somewhere is bound to get his feet stepped on or his hat bent out of shape! Yet, searching commentary on all things, not to mention the occasional personal attack, is essential to the continued functioning of our democratic system. Goody-two-shoes stories have their place -- in the features section of the community or suburban paper. But such contributions can't be allowed to crowd out hard news: negative, scathing or otherwise.

GreenSoil
GreenSoil

Bravo this article nailed it! @OurLittleAcre @PunkRockGardens @whereplantsrock @cowlickcottage

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

I think social good campaigns are particularly adept at awareness/advocacy and perhaps less proficient at activating behavior, particularly from new donors. I've been a solicitor for the Cultural Alliance of York County for several years and highlighting the successes of the organization is far more successful in donor recruitment than drawing eyes to programs desperately in need of support.

Latest blog post: Writers' Redux

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

@Shonali I say this to you a lot but you rock, Shonali! It's true, not everything's peachy and we can't pretend like it is. Personally, I'm trying to be careful in keeping a balance. I don't want to lose my natural attraction to all things good either, you know? Don't want my cheeriness dampened. :P Thanks for stopping by!

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

@Marcus_Sheridan Many thanks, Marcus! I agree with everything you said, and I like your term "Boy Who Cried Wolf" business model. Mean call-outs and disrespect are immature ways of getting attention online. Thanks for your comment!

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

@ginidietrich Will be interesting to see how it goes. Bottom line, it's the analysis (and its tone) that makes it or breaks it. And I remember the FedEx piece. 'Twas a great one! :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@pfine1 The whole idea of saying something hurtful about someone on a blog should be abolished. We should be attacking ideas, not other human beings. You missed the point of her blog post. It's not that every story we read should be "goody-two-shoes," but that the negativity shouldn't be the ONLY thing that is printed. Nor is her point to let the good stories crowd out hard news. It all has its place. She's just calling for more stories about the good people are doing. Good begets good.

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

@jasonkonopinski Exactly. Donors (and potential donors) want to be part of a game-changer, see how their donation made a difference, and feel good because they were part of it. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jason!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@TheJackB Sadly, we do love train wrecks, even if we squint at them. I think the positive more inspirational stories however, are most successful at actually motivating someone to buy from you.

KenMueller
KenMueller

@ifdyperez@ginidietrich I would say that the case studies where people screw up don't have to be negative. You can put a positive spin on them. You're not doing it just to bash them, but to instruct. To show what was done wrong, and how not to duplicate what they did. It's a fine line, but in terms of negativity, it's not just "these people suck" and then walking away. There is plenty of that out there, but that's not what I see on Spin Sucks.

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

@ginidietrich@pfine1 Gini said it. Life isn't all marshmallows and lollipops, true, and I am the first to agree that we should question everything. But no one wins anything from a personal attack. The person issuing it is only feeding the anger, the people reading it learn nothing from that, and the person receiving it will feel the sting. So why not be more constructive--and objective--in our analysis of things gone wrong?

KenMueller
KenMueller

@ifdyperez I just received some metrics from one of my non-profit clients, and it really bears this out. This client has a major fundraising campaign each Fall. The main difference between this year and last year was two-fold: This year they have a blog in place where they tell stories about the work they are doing, and this year, the campaign was much more directly tied to their social platforms, particularly Facebook. Check out these numbers;

For Nov/Dec 2010 to the same months 2011, traffic to their website more than doubled. For this past December, the Fall campaign donation page was the 2nd most viewed page on their site.

Additionally, the number of online donations increased by about 50%, with the average donation doubling from $150 to $300. The overall campaign for ONLINE donations went from $49k in Nov/Dec 2010 to $139k those same two months of 2011. And the overall giving with online and offline was a record amount for them, though I don't have those specific totals at hand, just the online portion.

Those are also just the cash gifts, as they accept a lot of product and food gifts (since one of their divisions is a homeless shelter and kitchen).

And looking at the analytics, they are attributing this to increased social and blogging activity. Pretty exciting, and we have barely scratched the surface of what they are capable of.

ifdyperez
ifdyperez

@KenMueller Bingo! This is fantastic info, Ken. It goes to show that there is ROI in social media, too. ;) And of course they were going to be successful... they have you at the helm!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Yes, spin does suck! Which is why this blog is so much fun. With guest bloggers weighing in on many sorts of social media and communication tidbits, I like the refreshing perspective communicators take on how stories are shared and why. Please read this inspiring blog from their site.  It will make you want to blog nothing but happy faces from now on: http://spinsucks.com/marketing/social-good-is-in-negativity-is-out/ […]

  2. […] believe this to be true and it’s important enough for me to share.” Goodness knows we have enough negativity out there, why can’t we promote our beliefs with some positivity, rather than seeking to tear others […]

  3. […] Negativity sucks, positivity attracts […]

  4. […] Social Good Is In, Negativity Is Out (spinsucks.com) […]

  5. […] Social Good Is In, Negativity Is Out (spinsucks.com) […]

  6. […] Razoo Giving, an online social giving platform. My friend Ifdy Perez, a champion of social good, and the Community Manager at Razoo, which I believe is the most robust social giving platform[, […]

  7. […] Social Good Is In, Negativity Is Out (spinsucks.com) […]

  8. […] believe this to be true and it’s important enough for me to share.” Goodness knows we have enough negativity out there, why can’t we promote our beliefs with some positivity, rather than seeking to tear others […]