Ten True Enemies

I’m not sure it’s possible to gain 1,000 true fans without ten true enemies.

Ten true enemies can make you feel like a failure. Any time you announce a new project, feature, or try to celebrate a success; they will voice their critical thoughts and bring you down.

Ten true enemies can consume almost all your time. They will create multiple accounts to post abuse towards you and other members. They may attempt to hack your website or run campaigns against you. They can suck you into endless debates about rules and interpretations of guidelines.

Ten true enemies will also get personal. They might follow you personally on social media platforms just to bring you down. They will do everything possible to make you feel flawed and inferior.

Ten true enemies lead the vanguard against your community. Any time there is trouble, they are there to stir it up, identify past faults, and try to turn opinion against you. They will always refer to personal experiences or present perceived instances of bias as proof that you are ‘bad’.

The number ten is arbitrary of course. It might be one or 100. But, regardless of the precise number, you can easily spend your time (or your life) trying to avoid the criticism of a tiny minority of people who are predisposed to be critical. Some might begrudge your success (as it reflects poorly upon their own), others might be responding to a perceived slight, others are simply people in personal pain who need to bring you down to feel better about themselves.

But as loud as your ten true enemies might become, it’s important to remember the plural of anecdote isn’t data. A volume of opinions doesn’t denote facts. A vocal minority doesn’t represent a silent majority. You shouldn’t assume this group is any more representative of your community than you would assume ten people protesting outside a supermarket represent the views of your nation.

Vocal minorities need the shadow of uncertainty to have power. The spiral of silence is their friend. If the majority aren’t sure what the group opinion is on a topic, it’s easier for your members to keep silent than risk voicing the wrong opinion. If you take away that uncertainty, you take away their power.

Ten people outraged about a new feature or the state of the community are going to look pretty dumb when you can show the majority are big fans. I’ve had clients who were certain their members hated the community only for hundreds, even thousands, of anonymous survey respondents to reveal the majority think the community is very useful. Collecting and sharing survey/poll results works in your favour.

You can spend your days (perhaps your life) trying to please your 10 true enemies. I’d suggest you don’t.

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