The shit fight is beginning- should you join in?

Social media is easy and it’s fun – but as social media’s popularity grows so does its impact.  Which is why it’s important to develop a social media strategy.

“When you don’t have a destination in mind, any road will get you there.”

As you use social media, you can expect at some point to see another social media primates start flinging shit at each other.  If you’re caught without a social media strategy – well, you won’t know whether to join in or run for cover.

I’ve found myself examining my social media strategy more often than not lately.  There have been plenty of opportunities to pick up the nearest pile and start flinging shit with the best of them.  Recently,  I happily joined in on both the Belkin Review Payola and the Cash4Gold social media firestorm.  Like most bloggers- when opportunity knocks I’m usually willing to answer!

If you don’t have a blog – then you should know that finding fresh content is a constant challenge for EVERY blogger.   A good old fashioned shit fight can provide WEEKS of content, not to mention currying inbound links and a bit of notoriety as added bonuses along the way.

Shit fights can be good for your blog – when used judiciously.

However, you not only have to decide which fights you’ll join but also where to draw the line.

Before either of these recent “social media disasters” appeared on the radar, another social media ruckus was brewing.  At the time, one of my fellow “social marketing primates” started throwing shit and I was faced with the decision of whether to join.

Since I wasn’t personally attacked, that meant I had a choice on whether or not to join.   When Jason Cohen found himself in the middle of a social media shit fight, he had no choice.  The shit was being flung DIRECTLY at him and he had no choice but to respond.  Fortunately, Jason’s a REALLY smart bear and defused the situation BRILLIANTLY!

When the shit is aimed you – you don’t have a choice.  However, when the shit isn’t flying directly your way, that’s when you’ve got a decision to make.

Do you join in or do you sit this one out?

I wasn’t named in the incident in question and now I have a choice to make.   When you’re faced with this choice, you can

  • ignore it.
  • report on it “objectively” and yet not include yourself directly in the line of fire.  You do this by NOT be naming names or disclosing URLS.  (See a great example of Darren Rowse doing this in Twitter is a Stage – Be Careful What You Say.  He doesn’t give link luv to his detractors.)
  • name names, list urls and make yourself a potential target.

Let it be known that there are times when joining in and naming names is EXACTLY what you should do.  That’s where your social media strategy comes into play.

It’s what Arlen Parsa did with regards to the Belkin Review Payola Scandal and  the choice Rob Cockerham made with the Cash4Gold blog post.  It’s a social media strategy that has paid off well for both of these bloggers.

However, on the other hand, I also advised my own client not to participate in a brewing shit storm as a part of HER developing social media strategy.

There is no “one size fits all” advice when it comes to social media strategy!

Unfortunately, when tempers flare in social media,  it leaves a lasting trail.  Unlike the footprints left in the sand at the beach – these footprints are cemented online forever.

Ask Ian Capstick of the Media Style blog.  He reports in his post Twitter Fight,  about an exchange which became heated on Twitter between reporter David George-Cosh  and  April Dunford, principle consultant with Rocket Launch media.  The portion of the “tiff” that happened “online” has left a trail of words set in stone.  At last count, the comments to the post numbered 85 and the trackbacks for the post were at 15 and counting.

One of those trackbacks is from the blog of Jennifer Leggio of ZD Net.   In A tale of two faux pas: When transparency meets bad behavior she writes:

My quick summary based on Capstick’s post: George-Cosh reached out to Dunford regarding a story he was working on and she took a day or so to get back to him. He was, according to Dunford’s Twitter stream, rude to her during the eventual call back, so she expressed frustration in a tweet. It was clear to George-Cosh, it seems, that she was talking about him since they’d just hung up the phone. Her defense was, and I paraphrase, “Dude, I didn’t say your name.” George-Cosh swore. A lot. She put on a show of trying to calm him. It ended… poorly.

Here’s the upside to this story – April is “social networking aware”.  She knew when the internet was talking about her and was able to post “her side” of the story.  She does so in a comment on Jennifer’s blog.

Another “bonus” is April’s online reputation was already well established when this occurred.  Because she was properly “inoculated” and her online reputation was already well established, this tussle is NOT the first that that comes up when you Google her name.

Unfortunately, David George-Cosh is not so lucky.  His Twitter feud with April comes in at #4 with the newspaper article Journalists are not above the rules of decorum when you search for his name on Google.

The National Post has apologized, but the damage is done. David’s name will be coloured by this event for a while. And the Post will be associated with it, too.

What’s your social media strategy?  How do you decide between “fight” or “flight” when it comes to social media?


  1. Kathy you’re awesome. 🙂

    This is right on. Even with the “shit-maelstrom” I was in, you’re absolutely right that in the end it was a boon. Sure some people got pissed off, but then that’s automatically going to happen if you take a strong stand on something.

    But many thousands of people read my stuff and/or got to think about something new and important for a brief period of time. I got about 200 new RSS subscribers.

    So to answer your question at the end: How do you decide whether it’s a good fight or a bad one?

    My answer: If the conversation is civil and people are contributing ideas, it’s a good thing. Even if it’s off topic, even if it’s misunderstood. If those two things are happening, it’s adult and it’s idea-exchange, and (for me) that’s the point of all this.

    When it gets personal or when people are “contributing” flames or other intellectually-vapid responses, then it’s not worth it.

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Starting up while employed: Admit it

  2. Hi Kathy – Great topic! I wish I’d been aware of the train wreck in order to spectate. The big questions anyone has to answer when these situations arise are: what’s the hunt about and for; do I have a dog in it; if I do, how big is my dog; and finally, does my dog really and honestly hunt – to the best of its ability? 🙂

    Like many, I’ve been online for more than a decade. It’s amazing the group dynamics you can witness and participate in over that span, should you choose. The choice is always yours and how you comport yourself. When the choice doesn’t seem clear, I’m an advocate of taking a deep breath and stepping back, and hopefully conveying a calm tone – even in the face of a controversial interchange. The immediacy of Twitter or other venues notwithstanding. As you and Barbara both pointed out today, we’re leaving a trail.

    Not always will there be agreement with what we say and do. I think the true measure of someone’s capabilities is how they handle themselves in situations of disagreement. You can’t control the other, but you’re always, hopefully, in control of yourself. If you’re prepared to fling the shit, you’d better be prepared to get splattered.

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..RUSH TO JUDGEMENT? WHAT’S THE HURRY? ARE ALL HANDS ON DECK?

  3. Jason,

    No my friend – YOU are the one who is awesome. The way you handled your “shit fight” was pure genius!!!

    I love your “dog in the fight” analogy!!! It’s probably the best “social media strategy in a nutshell” I’ve ever read.

    Oh and what words of wisdom: “If you’re prepared to fling the shit, you’d better be prepared to get splattered.”


  4. Kathy,

    This was a very interesting post. I think I was mystified about how you have word fight with only 140 characters. I guess it works because there are so many four letter words that can used.

    I’m sad about what happened to Jason and April, but I’m also bothered by the aftermath. It concerns me that Jason’s subscription skyrocketed AFTER the fight. I hope it’s because people went to his site and liked what he said and not because we humans still seem to love a good fight.

    Saras last blog post..Life Lessons: The Value of Kindness

  5. Sara-
    Human nature is what it is. There’s a reason reality television is SO popular these days!

  6. I have no idea what this fighting is about/or rudeness or flinging of words in disorder and over control…hmm

    I guess I had best tune up my antenna and figure it out if I am going to remain a part of this media life. Seems like a great ego dance – un-clarifying/distracting – which would appear to me to be the object of any discord – clarification so that one can serve life better?

    Maybe I have missed the whole point of this warrior game?

    Patricias last blog post..The Place I Want to Get Back To ~Mary Oliver

  7. Patricia,

    You’re just traveling in “kinder, gentler” circles – which is a GOOD place to be – just be aware that there are sharks swimming in these waters as well.

  8. Kathy,
    I would hardly say that the church is kinder, gentler waters or circles…and on every job or work experience I have had, I have encountered the sharks.

    I am guessing that because I don’t understand this controversy and the on line stuff, I should use this as a heads up so that I can understand it and learn something new?

    Hope it is not too soon…I still feel as though I am in honey moom phase 🙂

  9. Patricia –

    How about this – you’re traveling in kinder gentler waters ONLINE. I know you’re active in Barbara Swafford’s circle and hers is DEFINITELY a “kinder, gentler” side to the web.

    It’s probably never to early to watch for storms OR sharks in the online waters!

  10. LMAO Kathy – I’ve barely read a thing this year, never mind logged onto Twitter. It sounds like I’ve missed a whole heap of goings on. Now I’ll have to check out that Darren Rowse post.

  11. You know, long long ago, back before the earth’s crust cooled (late 1980s), sh*t storms were really popular in newsgroups like alt.flame and the like. I for one never see the plain simple reason for blatantly attacking someone online…and can only marvel at the, ahem, diversities of opinions that are always shown.

    I live by the creed, my kids will find EVERYTHING I write online…so it had better put the All Powerful Mother Unit in a brilliant light. 🙂

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coachs last blog post..Video Assassin Countdown – Make Money with YouTube Videos

  12. Barbara – the shit fights used to rage on the editorial pages of the newspapers (pre-pre historic?) and before that they took place in the town square. The difference between those exchanges and the ones online is that those exchanges usually faded into obscurity fairly rapidly. Today’s shit fights take place online under the watchful eye of Google and the other search engines and can live for as long as the Web Archives want to keep track of them. Imagine your children’s grandchildren finding your comments on this blog post in the next century. It makes your creed a wise one indeed!!!


  1. […] I’ve recently been talking offline with and about the “uninitiated” who are afraid of what social media and blogging will have to say about their business.  You can watch that train of thought emerge in posts such as “When someone steals your branding” and “The shit fight is beginning – should you join in?” […]