The Most Disturbing Thing I Ever Did Online (Ever!)

The Most Disturbing Thing I Ever Did Online (Ever!)

Sometimes I talk to students who are very frightened of making a mistake and publicly humiliating themselves in their marketing… so I thought I’d share the ABSOLUTE WORST THING I EVER DID ONLINE, because short of pulling an “Anthony Weiner,” there’s no way you could possibly top this one.  If I survived something this bad, you can too.

OK, so the WORST thing I ever did on the internet was on September 12th, 2001.
Long story short, I started a WAR on the internet!

See, given that Sharon and I were psychologists just outside of NYC, right after 9/11 happened (literally the day after) we thought it would be a good idea to send out a broadcast to our 20,000 subscribers offering to do free support groups about the trauma.  We were genuinely motivated to do a good thing…

But here’s how it played out:

  • Entered “9/11 Support Group” as the subject line
  • Forgot that the system automatically pre-pended “GET PAID:” to the subject line because it was a custom email system built for recruiting focus group participants.
  • Body of message was “Reply with your name, gender, phone, and age if you’d like to come to the group”
  • The programmer apparently made a mistake and set it up so that when anyone replied, the reply went to all 20,000 people on the list. And then if people replied to THAT reply, that went to all 20,000 people too.
  • The first reply was from a young woman who wrote: “I’m 24, female, and I’d like to come. My phone number is____”, and this went out to all 20,000 people with the subject line “GET PAID: 9/11 Support Group.”

As you can imagine, several hundred of these people replied back with incredibly irate messages… which, of course, proceed to be broadcast to all 20,000 people too.  And then they started fighting with each other.  Some even made death threats. And it just kept escalating!

It took us a few hours to realize what was happening and shut down the server, but by then the president of our trade association had called us to admonish us, along with most of our best clients and friends.

We spent the next week handling the angry phone calls and threats, day and night. We had to bring in attorneys.  We had to settle with the woman who wrote the first reply to avoid a law suit.

What a nightmare!

But you know what?

In the end, we were still standing…
The WORST thing I ever did on the internet (I dare you to beat this!) (TELL story of 20,000 people email fiasco on 9/12/2001)

Just thought you’d like to know what I did one time way back on September 12th, 2001.
Long story short, I started a war on the internet:

– Thought it would be a good idea to send out a broadcast to our 20,000 subscribers offering to do free support groups about 9/11

– Wrote the subject line as “9/11 Support Group”

– Forgot that the system automatically pre-pended “GET PAID:” to the subject line because it was for focus group participants.

– Body of message was “Reply with your name, gender, phone, and age if you’d like to come to the group”

– The programmer apparently made a mistake and set it up so that when anyone replied, the reply went to all 20,000 people on the list. And then if people replied to THAT reply, that went to all 20,000 people too.

The first reply was from a young woman who write “I’m 24, female, and I’d like to come. My phone number is____”, and this went out to all 20,000 people with the subject line “GET PAID: 9/11 Support Group.”

As you can imagine, at least 1,000 of these people replied back with irate messages. Some with death threats. And it just kept escalating from there.

It took us a few hours to realize what was happening and shut down the server, but by then the president of our trade association had called us to admonish us, along with most of our best clients.

We spent the next week living at the office handling the angry phone calls and threats. I had to bring in attorneys. I had to settle with the woman who wrote the first reply to avoid a law suit.

What a nightmare!

And while I’d never recommend starting an internet war on purpose in order to get the attention of your long-unheard-from clients… many of them sympathized with us once they heard the story and actually gave us MORE business.  (Crazy, right?)

So what should you take away from all this?

D.W. Winnicott said “The Nightmare We Fear Most is the One We’ve Already Been Through”…

The odds are, whatever mistake you make in your marketing won’t harm you to the extent you’re frightened it will.  Most entrepreneurs spend so much time worrying about what negative thing might happen if X comes to pass, they never stop to consider that if X happens, Y positive thing might be hiding behind it.

And since frequency of contact is one of the pivotal foundations for increasing conversion…

Your fear of communicating with your audience more is likely doing you more harm than their negative reactions might.

Food for thought,

Glenn 🙂

PS – You can still ask me LIVE questions about your marketing once a month in the MakeThemBuy.com club for just $9.95.

 

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