When haters hate

Channeling Taylor Swift in a sometimes hateful online world

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Last month one of my business goals was to update and optimize my mailing list. I have thousands of email contacts accumulated through a variety of avenues, including personal contacts, people who had subscribed to my mailing list on my website, people I was connected to on LinkedIn, and people I had met in other ways.

I speak with some of the people on that list frequently, but I haven’t contacted others since our first interaction. So I typed out an email briefly explaining what I was trying to accomplish and gave people three options: they could identify themselves as someone who was in my Madison area network, someone who was in my national network, or someone who had no idea how we were connected and didn’t wish to receive any further correspondence from me.

By segmenting my mailing list, I was hoping to better refine the type of content I send to specific groups of people to make sure it’s truly relevant and valuable. If you’re like me, you probably get enough emails in your inbox, so this would help ensure my emails aren’t just taking up space in people’s junk mail.

If people chose one of the first two options, they’d be sent a second email thanking them for their response, asking what project they are most excited about, and whether yours truly could be a resource for them. If they chose the third option, I’d unsubscribe them from my list so they wouldn’t receive additional messages.

“Unsubscribes” can be a bad thing, but they’re okay in a beginning phase of a mailing list. It’s easy to get too caught up in the size of a mailing list but engagement is what’s most important. For example, a list with 100 people that has an open rate or click-through rate of 80% would be equal to, if not actually better than, a list of 1,000 people with only an 8% click-through rate. You want people on your list who actually want to be there, not just people whose email address are being held hostage!

I finished composing the email, hit send, and it was a little scary. How would people respond?

Within minutes, my inbox was exploding with responses. The vast majority were positive, saying they appreciated the continued emphasis on adding real value for their career, business, and life. Many talked about current projects and ways I could help them reach their goals faster.

However, then came a select number of Internet “trolls” — people with negative responses or people upset about receiving the email even though there were clear options available to reject subscriptions. Why people would be angry about receiving one email that was meant to understand their needs is beyond me but it happens to everyone. No matter how much positive feedback you get, it’s easy to be deflated by a few negative comments. To paraphrase one of the most successful (and also most hated) names in the music business, Taylor Swift, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate … shake it off.” Here are a few short tips to remember if you’re down due to “haters.”

  • Don’t take it personally. I know this is easier said than done but remember that hurt people hurt other people. Their negative comments are more likely a reflection of their own current situation.
  • Don’t dwell on negative feedback. Anyone doing big things is going to have people on both ends of the spectrum. To have people who love what you do, you also need to have people who aren’t your biggest fans. That’s okay. If you aren’t making big enough waves, you are playing it too safe and will never achieve the highest levels of greatness.
  • Kill them with kindness. It can be easy to read a nasty email and want to fire back with something just as snappy, but what will that prove? Take the high road and either reply politely to help rectify a negative situation or disregard the comment. Next time you get a hater, count it as a win because it means you’re having an impact. The world needs more people like you.

Do you have a story about a hater? I'd love to hear about it — email me at Jenna@JennaAtkinsonConsulting.com.

Jenna Atkinson is the president of CONNECT Madison, a young professionals group offering development, community engagement, and relationship-building opportunities to local business leaders.

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