Social Media Attacks Not A Zero Sum Game

Early in my social media journey, I witnessed something unsavoury. My friend Tibor Shanto makes a huge contribution to professional selling around the world and is very active in social media, especially LinkedIn. Tibor is a positive, genuine thought leader and he did an interesting LinkedIn post on professional selling. People were adding comments and engaging in constructive dialogue... then wham – like a great white shark launching out of the water to devour a seal!

Someone had jumped in with an unprovoked, vicious attack.

It really was nasty and Tibor responded with an eloquent and factual rebuff (link at the end of this post). It’s all entertaining… people love to watch a car crash or schoolyard fight but here’s what shows me the beautiful power of the best social media platforms. Done well, they are communities and any community with positive values does not tolerate bullies or negative trolls. LinkedIn is a superbly moderated environment with 160,000 LinkedIn Publisher posts every month and over 187,000,000 monthly unique visitors. Dozens of people started posting in LinkedIn to support Tibor, and without getting nasty with the person who had attacked him. Nice, I thought, we need goodwill and good manners in the world – especially on social media platforms.

A few weeks later, I became very active in LinkedIn as my new blog platform. I deliberately don't use my posts as bait to take people to my website or capture names for marketing purposes. I simply give my intellectual property away. I do this because professional selling has been very kind to me; I have no debt with a family lifestyle I am grateful for. I also have a full book of clients I enjoy working with and I'm building a good reputation as a keynote speaker – time to give back.

Then this same person who attacked Tibor lunged at me in one of my posts. He blog-bombed me with negativity and sarcasm while seeking to hijack the discussion thread claiming his ability to have ‘insights’ about my writing was due to the fact he had written a book – and of course he included a link to take people to his website. (Click here to see my 6 Sins Of B2B Social Selling.) I chose to simply ignore him and his negativity – I’d seen his form with Tibor and elsewhere. After about 10 days, I simply took that particular post down but now I think I'll put it back up. Why should any of us feel censored or bullied into not sharing our views?

Shortly thereafter he blocked me, which meant I could not see his profile or posts. I initially wondered if LinkedIn had put him in ‘LinkedIn Jail’ but then a friend emailed me to let me know he was now bashing my credentials too. My wife signed in to LinkedIn and we had a look at his profile and posts. We read his negative comments about me and also saw that he had retroactively cleaned up his diatribe against Tibor Shanto to mask its initial intent. He will probably do the same with his negative post about me once he sees this.

Please note that this person was a complete stranger to me until he lashed out. I feel compelled to share here as a sort of public service announcement and it made me wonder, how many times has this person done this in social media or otherwise? He appears to be aggressively competing with other writers out there by piggy-backing off of their efforts while simultaneously defecating all over them. Is the motive to sell more books by attempting to discredit other authors? Maybe he thinks negative publicity is a good thing. Not in my opinion; I don't want any association with negative people or haters. My personal brand is extremely important to me and I don’t understand why this person seeks attention in a way that causes them so much brand damage.

I was persuaded to write a book after 30 years as a consistent high performer in the APAC sales trenches having personally won 7 and 8 figure deals; and then as a sales manager, country manager and managing director having helped countless sales people improve their abilities. For the last two years I've been a sales leadership consultant helping clients improve their teams and coaching them to win deals as large as $100M. So questioning my experience or dismissing me as a dilettante armchair consultant, amused me to the quick. Just as with "Tibor" he "looked into my background." But clearly he did not. Wouldn't an effective adversarial approach begin with an attack grounded in facts? Better still, don't throw mud at anyone – we all know the analogy.

I think it's incumbent upon anyone in the sales leadership and development community to encourage professional discourse in social, especially on LinkedIn. Yes, let's foster passionate debate and freedom of speech as we seek to help others hone their craft. But caustic and nasty criticism of someone who's earned the right to express a viewpoint is disappointing. Let's be egalitarian, everyone has a right to an informed opinion but unprovoked attacks such as the one on Tibor have no place on LinkedIn.

There's a more positive way to engage if you have differing views. I'm often surprised by spam bots leaving negative comments or angry folks blasting off on LinkedIn to game the system driving fast impressions and clicks. What a myopic view! Impressively, these instances are few and far between. Kudos to LinkedIn's team for keeping this forum a positive place to interact. To me, sales training and authorship is not a zero sum game. If you attack someone, their supporters will rally to enhance the person’s brand but your brand will plummet disproportionately.

Some write a bestseller. Others may not ever get global distribution or recognition but have written a masterwork worthy of global publication. They have brilliant ideas however small or large. Let's listen to all and celebrate each contribution. I learn from my mentees every day. There are genius-level sales people from all walks of life executing with excellence in the field as we speak on every continent. We can learn from them and LinkedIn provides a forum for limitless wisdom and helpful information exchange. Let's work together to expand the pie so that distinguished sales degrees can be offered in higher learning institutions worldwide and we can restore dignity embracing the highest form of what professional selling can be.

Has anyone else had a run-in with a malicious player in the sales training community? Tibor chose a rapid and assertive rebuff. I chose to simply ignore and eliminate, and I plan to continue doing so – when you argue with an idiot, it soon becomes difficult for observers to distinguish who is who. There is no right or wrong but I’m interested in what others think concerning the best way to handle unprovoked attacks? After ruminating on this question, I thought there might be valuable lessons to be learned here by bubbling this up to the global community.

P.S. You can see Tibor Shanto’s eloquent response to the hostile attack here.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Ryan Hyde