I read an article the other day called “How to Manipulate People for Fun and Profit.” I’m not going to link to it because in my opinion, the advice it provided was utter garbage, highlighting the ease with which one can tout themselves as an ‘expert’ while proving they are anything but by giving not just poor, but potentially damaging advice.

The article states that action occurs as a result of inducing a high arousal state – a well known concept in Psychology and absolutely correct. My issue, however, is with how the author recommended you induce a high state of arousal: by outraging people. The author stated that marketing strategy should focus on writing content that is purposely divisive and intentionally controversial. So let's get this straight, to go viral you have to become a troll? 

Internet Troll

The article went on to highlight instances of when highly controversial or outrageous content had been spread and gone viral. I am not disputing the fact that controversy spreads; my issue is that if your marketing activities purposely manipulate people into feeling angry or outraged, both of these are negative emotions.  Negative sentiment does not convert customers, a fundamental fact that any sales or marketing professional would be fully aware of.

Does manipulating potential customers into feeling strong negative
emotions sound like good business sense to you?

If I am outraged by the comments or tactics of a company, yes, I might go and read about them, I might talk about it (as I currently am doing), but I sure as hell won’t shop with them or spread positive word of mouth, in which case the activity has successfully turned a potential customer into a someone who would never, ever be a customer. Which is, of course, is the polar opposite of what any marketing activity would hope to achieve.

social media marketing advice

In advising people to be purposely antagonistic and controversial in their marketing efforts, this author is essentially telling you how to lose customers. High share rates of such an article might make it go viral, but if that virality spreads and inspires nothing but negative sentiment and drives customers away, how is that effective marketing?

Does any business really want controversy instead
of customer conversions?  Of course not!

I’m assuming that the sole purpose of this article was to spew utter rubbish to get people talking. Yep, it’s got me talking, even telling my readers about article, but it’s also put the author and the website on my negative radar, meaning all future content I’m exposed to from them will be aggressively filtered out and ignored. Is that really what any company would want to happen as a direct result of their marketing activities?  Of course not.

No one is infallible, and whilst reputable writers will endeavour to fact check and identify multiple sources before publishing information, we don’t always get it right. In relation to social media marketing and theory, there often isn’t a right or wrong way to do things, only best practice.

As social media proliferates and it becomes ever easier for people to self-publish, so the threat of misinformation increases. Don’t believe all of the advice that you read just because it is published on a popular blog or is written by someone calling themselves an expert. At worst, some articles are based on nothing more than opinion; at best, articles are based on tried and tested techniques which have been proven to work, but that doesn’t mean it will work for your particular customers base or business sector.

Never lose your objectivity, and question the author's
professional credentials if necessary.

Remain objective, and if you aren’t convinced then ask the author a question by leaving a comment on their blog; if you really have strong suspicions, see if you can find other sources providing the same advice or do a bit of snooping to uncover the real credentials of the author. By doing this you will avoid the charlatans out there and won’t end up alienating or losing customers as a result of executing misguided marketing activities.