About a year and a half ago, I recommended to my sister, at that point a stay-at-home mom, to look into Lularoe. “I think it’s going to be a thing.” I said.
Trust me when I say I’m happy to say I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, but about this I was right. It has exploded in popularity.
Since then I’ve noticed a leggings debate online: people who love them, people who hate them. And one of my Facebook friends (to paraphrase her) asked ‘What’s so polarizing about leggings?’
Guys, it’s not about the leggings. (I mean, is it ever?). It’s about the way the leggings, certain topics in current events, lifestyle choices, other products, etc, are being handled online. This polarity stems from three things: aggressive marketing tactics, extreme blog post titles, and differing views regarding online etiquette.
Aggressive Marketing Tactics
I’ve noticed a rise recently in more aggressive marketing tactics. These include three specific things I can think of offhand:
1) Automatically adding people to Facebook groups.
2) Pulling people you barely know into messaging threads involving hundreds of other people (ok maybe tens).
3) Repeated, unsolicited online messages from strangers.
Usually when these things happen, someone wants you to buy their stuff. No, not do they want to buy their old cribbage board but do you want to buy something they have a lot of inventory of: leggings, supplements, essential oils, ‘adult’ toys, cookware, etc.
The perps of this aggression are often MLM people (If you don’t know what an MLM is, here’s a previous blog post about them.) but can also be people who are very involved in a cause (political, religious, etc).
I will say I know PLENTY of people not doing douchey things (my sister among them). And I also know many politically active or religious people who are also not becoming aggressive on social media. But plenty are and it’s giving those who sell similar products a bad name.
What makes this aggression feel so personal online is that most people have their smartphone within 3 feet of their bodies. If you can picture walking up to someone’s door at 10 pm and asking them for money or following them around their house to show them your latest product, that’s what it can feel like, especially when these request come from multiple sources. It can feel like you literally can’t get away from them.
(Note: I was added to a group nonconsentually a few weeks ago and couldn’t easily ‘leave’ the group from my phone. I had to wait 12 hours before I was back at the office to leave it and in those twelve hours I got over 100 notifications. And I’m good at this. So I can only imagine the less tech savvy can feel even more powerless in a situation like this.)
Now you may ask yourself, ‘How do I know if what I am doing is aggressive?’ Here are two tests:
A) If you did this to someone in real life, would it be aggressive? Like if I made you stay in a room you didn’t want to be in, does that seem aggressive? Of course! But if I invite you to come in the door and offer you candy to do so, does that seem aggressive? No. Turn your online action into a real life one and you’ll get your answer pretty easily.
B) Think of someone doing the same thing to you about something you don’t care about. Considering both the person and the action, does this seem aggressive? While you feel passionate about essential oils, your friend Mary might be passionate about rabbit rescue. If Mary did the same stuff you’re thinking of doing to you related to rabbit rescue, how would you feel? If you’d feel crummy to receive it, don’t give it!
Adding people to a Facebook group: Too much
Inviting people to join a Facebook group: Fine
Mass messaging more than ten people at a time to sell them something: Too much
Sending an email to a list of my customers: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product in case people want to buy it: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product and tagging fifty friends on Facebook you want to buy it: Too much
Automatically adding the email address from a business card to your marketing email list: Too much
Emailing someone whose business card you have linking to where they can sign up to your marketing list: Fine
Draw the lines for yourself but even if you think someone is receptive to what you are doing, it is more powerful to let them opt in.
To summarize, we live in a climate of activism and side hustles. Balancing important opinions we want to share and the comfort and feelings of others is something we’ll all struggle with. Just remember, it’s not about the leggings… but now that you know what it is about, maybe you can do something about your part in it. Because honestly, the only people we can change is ourselves.
This is post one in our series focusing on strong online stances. Stay tuned for post #2 on extreme blog post titles!