Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Using Digital Gossip to Your Advantage

Gossip. We all do it. In fact, studies have shown that venting about bad behavior you’ve seen or overheard can actually lower stress levels. What is it about gossip that gets under our skin and makes us want to share?

It’s one part therapeutic and one part the rush of knowing something before anyone else does. That feeling of revealing privileged information to someone who didn’t know gives us a little thrill. In addition, knowing behind-the-scenes information that the general public has no access to gives us a sense of specialness; of exclusivity.

Now, what on Earth does this have to do with online marketing? More than you know.

digital gossip

Not too long ago, the creator of the much-beloved television show Veronica Mars had a brilliant idea. Why not crowdsource the funds needed to make a feature film? He couldn’t get the full support of a studio or producer, but the fan base? They were huge. And so the most successful Kickstarter film project of all time was born. But that’s a different story.

Part of Kickstarter’s appeal is that the “backers,” people who contribute to a creative project, get some sort of kickback for their contribution. It can range from a heartfelt “thank you” to big rewards, like signed merchandise or a guest role in a film. But the reward I want to talk about is the behind-the-scenes info.

I’ll admit it: I totally backed the Veronica Mars movie project. The show was amazing and I’m a big fan. They didn’t need to twist my arm. But an even bigger part of the appeal is that now I get first access to project announcements, behind-the-scenes tidbits, and other “secret” goodies. I even get a digital copy of the movie around the time it’s released in theaters!

And this is where gossip comes in. Even the illusion of exclusivity and getting the scoop before anyone else can ignite fans. Veronica Mars already had an enormous fan base, but you can apply the same principles to nearly any business. This is what you have to leverage with your social media. This is why people will follow you.

This is why social media works.

Think about it. When do your ears perk up the most? When you’re hearing stuff you already know, or when you’re overhearing a whispered conversation that isn’t meant for you and you hear your name? Are you going to care if you can access the same information as everyone else, or is it going to excite you more to get a first peek at something?

Give people access to something special. Figure out what they can get from your online properties that they aren’t going to find elsewhere. Talk to them. Even if you’re not talking to them directly, they’re still listening in to the conversation. Some of your best sway can come from revealing something juicy to a user asking questions on your page. They get to feel special, and everyone else around listening in feels like they got an inside look.

And best of all: people like to share “secrets.” Gossip isn’t always a bad thing!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Handling Negative Sentiment Like a Pro

When your business stakes a claim in the digital world, it’s likely that eventually you’ll have to deal with negative sentiment from disgruntled customers or users. Even if you run the most on-the-ball company in the world, eventually someone’s going to be unhappy with you. Them’s the breaks. You hope it’s nothing too major, you handle it with integrity, and you move on.

However, sometimes you screw up and get called on it. Unless you move quickly and carefully, today’s negative sentiment can quickly snowball out of control through social media, blogs, and digital word of mouth. So how do you handle it like a pro?

We have two recent examples that you may have already heard of: Kickstarter and the “Seduction Manual” Debacle, and Adecco and the “Around the World in 80 Jobs” Fiasco. These are very different cases, but in both instances, the company in question messed up, the public reacted loudly, and spokespeople responded to the allegations.

But one succeeded, and one did not. What was the difference?


First, let’s talk about Kickstarter. Last week, a Kickstarter user uncovered someone trying to fund a “seduction manual” that seemed relatively gross-but-benign on its fundraising page, but further digging uncovered passages that were appalling at best, encouraging violence against women at worst. The Internet reacted fast, but not fast enough. The discovery was made only hours before the project was funded, and it went through.

So what did Kickstarter do? Did they ignore the complaints? Hand-wave it away, claiming “free speech” or “creative freedom?” No. They issued an authentic, genuine apology in which they explained that they were wrong to let such a project go through. They won the negative sentiment game, not through weaseling out of it, but through facing it head on. We’ll discuss what they did right in a moment.


Now let’s talk about Adecco. This was an instance of a company lifting the personal brand of a successful young blogger and using it for financial gain. The blogger attempted to contact the company and reach an agreement, but was waved away. So he took to the Internet and wrote about the undermining of his livelihood by a billion-dollar company. The response on the company’s Facebook page was overwhelming.

What did Adecco do? They hand-waved. They condescended. They used typical marketing spin-doctoring to issue a “we’re sorry that you feel the need to post negative remarks on our page” pseudo-apology. And people weren’t having it. The issue is still ongoing, so only time will tell if they’ll recover from this stumble, but at the time of this writing, they’ve only dug themselves deeper.

What was the difference? How did one company manage negative sentiment so well while the other fell on their face?

1)      Use an authentic tone. Don’t try to spin the negativity or pass the buck elsewhere. Consumers have finely-tuned BS meters and will call you on inauthentic sentiment that plainly says, “We think you’re all whiners and we’re just trying to shut you up.”

2)      Tell everyone what you’re going to do to fix it. It’s one thing to say, “yeah, we screwed up, our bad” and offer no follow-up. It’s another thing entirely to list out exactly why the screw-up happened and what you’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

3)      Be transparent. Kickstarter removed the offending page, but they kept a cached version so that users could still use it for reference. Nothing will burn you in people’s eyes faster than deleting comments, removing pages without reference, or otherwise trying to control the sentiment. People have a voice on the web, and they want to be heard. They’ve already taken a several dozen screenshots, anyway.

4)      Make amends. While Kickstarter couldn’t take back the money that funded the project, they could donate a larger amount to an anti-sexual violence organization. And they did. Meanwhile, Adecco appears to be trying to find a way to pay as little as possible to get out of their mess.

5)      Take personal responsibility. No one wants to hear about your scapegoat. Your company is ultimately responsible, and you’re who they want to hear an apology from. Don’t backpedal. Stand your ground for doing what’s right.

The Golden Rule applies with negative sentiment just as it applies to anything else: treat people the way you’d like to be treated [by a business]. Above all, know that you can’t make everybody happy… but you can make MOST people happy. This all seems like common sense, but so many companies still get it wrong. Don’t be one of them.

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. She creates digital media campaigns for a variety of clients to better optimize their social media properties. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

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