Social Good Is In, Negativity Is Out

By: Guest | January 30, 2012 | 

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

  • Great stuff, Ifdy. I think every for-profit should have some sort of social good or giving written into their business model. It just makes sense and is the right thing to do. I’m going to pass your post along to a number of my clients, both for-profit and non-profit.

    • ifdyperez

      @KenMueller Thanks so much, Ken!

      • @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

          @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!

        • @ifdyperez ha! I wish I could take credit. They have a great team there and they do a great job of executing. I’m just a small piece of their puzzle on the strategy, planning, and training side.

  • KyleeHartwigBaumle

    And the people said, “Amen!”

    • ifdyperez

      @KyleeHartwigBaumle LOL! Thanks!

  • I agree that we should hear more positive news but historically speaking I can’t think of a time where people weren’t interested in watching the train wreck instead of the award for saving a life.

    • @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.

      • ifdyperez

        @Lisa Gerber @TheJackB You said it, Lisa.

        • @ifdyperez @Lisa Gerber @TheJackB negativity wins ratings, elections, viewership it really sucks.

        • @HowieSPM @ifdyperez @lisa@TheJackB Yep. and it does suck.

      • @Lisa Gerber Depends on what you are selling.

  • (just a recommendation: if you enjoy reading about social good sections, I think you might enjoy, “People Are Awesome” section of

    • ifdyperez

      @GiseleNMendez I’m loving this, it’s great. Thanks for sharing!

  • 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.

    • 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!

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  • GreenSoil

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

    • @GreenSoil@whereplantsrock@CowlickCottage Now I have to find the connection sincde punkrockgardens is a friend of mine!

    • ifdyperez

      @GreenSoil@ourlittleacre @punkrockgardens@whereplantsrock @CowlickCottage Muchas gracias. So glad to meet a community of positive social do-gooders!

  • 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.

    • ginidietrich

      @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

        @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?

  • kennettkwok

    I agree. This post really reminds me of the movie called “The Secret”. Someone’s positive energy can really breed more positivity; negative energy does the opposite. Unfortunately, web anonymity makes it really easy for people to criticize, troll, and deceive others online. Most people don’t have a real online reputation to maintain – this is especially obvious on YouTube, where many comments are negative in nature.

  • ginidietrich

    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.

    • 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! 🙂

      • @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.

  • 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.


    • 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!

  • 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.

    • ifdyperez

      @Andrea Hypno I love that thought, you’re totally right. Thanks!

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  • 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 Hypno 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!).

    • 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. 😛 Thanks for stopping by!

      • @ifdyperez I can’t imagine anything would damp your cheeriness. You’re one of the most delightful people I know.

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