Is your online presence too safe for your own good?


online presence

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I open my browser bookmarks, read through my daily news blogs and find a common theme nowadays: offended people everywhere.

Someone said or did something on the net that someone else finds “deeply problematic” which then winds up the outrage machine. Social media users go on a virtual witch hunt, trying to ban/censor/take-down the offender.

We live in a hyper-sensitive world. Perhaps some day soon just opening your mouth will be considered an act of offense. How dare you abuse the air with your sound waves appropriating them?

Seriously, with today’s outrage culture, creating content means navigating through a potential minefield. Every word you mutter on a podcast, every sentence you write in a self-published book or blog can, and will be, used against your online presence. It sounds like a dystopian nightmare à la Hunger Games, but it could also be your greatest opportunity.

Because in an online world where everyone’s timid and playing it safe, the courageous ones stand out … and maybe even make big money.

Learning from controversial and successful figures

Let’s start with Trump.

Yeah, that T-R-U-M-P. Hate or love him, he’s impossible to ignore. Heck, just the other weekend, I was at tiny local pub on the outskirts of Berlin and some guy at the bar counter started mumbling about Trump’s over-the-top personality in a discussion about ‘Merica.

That’s the impact of an outspoken personality. Most people forget that Trump makes a huge amount of money from licensing his name–there’s Trump Ties, Trump fragrance and even Trump Vodka. His controversial statements may not get him the nomination, but it boosts his personal brand power and sales, thanks to the free publicity provided by the media.

It’s still true–there’s no such thing as bad press, because even bad news equals attention. And attention means everything in today’s over-stimulated world.

But you don’t have to be a billionaire tycoon with a perpetual hair problem to make waves. Plenty of smaller fish use their courage to be honest and authentic to attract hate and love, and more importantly, turn attention into money.

There was the uber-controversial #gamergate Twitter hashtag in 2014.

It started as an “ethics debate in game journalism” debate and then turned into a sh*tstorm about alleged misogyny, bomb threats, and ended as a battle of ideologies. The online Twitter debate became so explosive, even Stephen Colbert, Wired, NBC and The NY Times reported about it.

Self-proclaimed gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, a pro-gamergate follower, has taken his journalistic career to online stardom thanks to his outspokenness and willingness to turn against the mainstream opinion during the debate. He wrote on behalf of the gamers, which are often falsely represented by the mainstream media. Over the course of #gamergate, he attracted over 50,000 Twitter followers in the span of six months, wrote a book and now gets speaking engagements across the western world.

The inflammatory ‘Are you beach body ready?’ campaign?

The little British company called Protein World created a London billboard that featured a young, attractive blonde with a slim body, adding the line “Are you beach body ready?” to promote its fitness product.

Feminists and sympathizers worldwide were outraged on Twitter and other networks, claiming the ad was misogynist by promoting an unrealistic beauty standard and thus fat-shaming the overweight. They even managed to have the billboards taken down for a brief time.

Instead of backing down, the founders of the company defended their ad choice on live TV and Twitter, revealing that more than 80 ppercent of their customers were actually women. They refused to say sorry for a project that they stood fully behind, unlike big corporations that tend to shut down at the slightest hint of conflict. That rare instance of a company standing up for its beliefs resulted in a boom of sales: the company said they added more than 5,000 new customers during the controversy.

Now, what do all these examples have in common?

Well, they all feature individuals and companies that are outspoken about their views and don’t back down, despite the online outrage they face. A courageous stance of being truly authentic is a rare feature in our online world so when it happens it leads to attention and even sales. They attract like-minded individuals that turn into fervent fans and customers.

Something to think about. Are we actually limiting our brand potential by trying to please everybody? By backing down on controversial stands do we sell out on our most passionate fans?

“Be authentic” sounds like bland advice but what if we took that advice seriously?

Alternative reading from Mark Schaefer: How controversy can back-fire as a marketing strategy.

mars dorian
Mars Dorian draws funky illustrations and pens sci-fi thrillers for the Internet Generation. His latest novel Fear the Liberator is available on Amazon for just $ 2.99! Consider his artwork for your next project:

Original illustration by the author.

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Russia’s Middle East Presence is President Obama’s Fault


The Middle East has been essentially under United States control since the second Gulf War. Then, we gave up control two years ago when the red line was crossed and President Obama chose to do nothing about it. His weakness, and ours, was placed in clear view for the world to see.

Nobody stepped up immediately and we were given another unfortunate opportunity to reestablish control with the Islamic State. With ISIS, we have the most valid reason to go in and fix the situation than we’ve ever had in the past. Unfortunately, the disastrous aftermath of the invasions of Iraq and Syria under the Bush Administration made it more politically correct to essentially ignore the Islamic State and give them free reign over the region. We went in when we shouldn’t have and we didn’t go in when we should have.

Now, Russia is making a play to be the dominant superpower in the region thanks to our Nobel Peace Prize winner’s inability to act for peace.

Perhaps more telling of this administration’s failures is the fact that Israel, our longtime ally and a country that has been worried about Russia since before the USSR fell, is actually stepping in to talk to Vladimir Putin and put their concerns at ease. According to Newsweek, they felt that they had to do it since President Obama wasn’t apparently not going to.

Netanyahu may have thought that Russia was no worry, given simple geography and the fact that American foreign policy and military strength had kept the Russians out of the Middle East for a half century. But then along came Barack Obama, and now the Russians have made a major move in Syria.

The American reaction—thus far, one phone conversation by John Kerry and one by Ashton Carter—will not have deterred Putin, so Netanyahu on September 21 flew to Moscow to talk with the Russians.

I’ve resisted being critical of President Obama because there has never been a shortage of voices speaking out about him, but this is different. This level of weakness by an American President is unprecedented. He’s making Jimmy Carter seem like a pit bull by comparison. The end of this disastrous Presidency cannot come soon enough.

President Obama Middle East