OpinionPOSTED May 7, 2014

Why you should follow people you disagree with

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Dissenting opinions

How many times have you gone through your Twitter feed and seen something that you flatly disagreed with — something you objected to at your core? It doesn’t happen often, but what was your first instinct? I’ll bet it was to unfollow that person.

It’s so easy to do, and why not? Your social channels have become a safe haven of information and opinions you fundamentally agree with, a constant stream of news and viewpoints from friends and industry confidants to help reaffirm your beliefs and the very ideas you hold dear. But what are the consequences?

Four years ago when Rob Ford ran and eventually won Toronto’s mayoral election, I remember the shock and sheer disbelief from my social feeds. How could this have happened? Who voted for him? Certainly no one I knew. But there was clearly a good portion of people that felt he was the right man for the job (hindsight is 20/20).

Social media gives us the amazing ability to pick and choose the people and information we see — to customize the experience. But we also run the risk of creating an echo chamber of constant agreement. We never have to suffer through the embarrassment or discomfort of hearing someone disagree with us or say something we don’t like.

But how do you grow or learn when you’re bombarded with yes-men (or women)?

The same rings true for brands and companies. We love to highlight when someone likes us and falls all over themselves to tell us how great our product is. But what about the people who don’t love us — what can they teach us?

My challenge lately has been to fight the urge to unfollow or mute the dissenting voices that pop up in my social feeds. It’s not easy, but it is rewarding. I’m learning that not everyone sees the world the way I do, and it pushes me to get inside their head to seek out their motivations.

That same challenge can be hugely rewarding to brands as well. You know why someone loves you — they tell you all the time. But what about the people that don’t — what can we do to bring them over and build that relationship? Sometimes there’s nothing to be done, they’re just not that into you. But the exercise can be helpful in improving the way you do business and ensuring that future customers don’t fall through the cracks and may actually one day become brand advocates themselves.

Give it a try.

Gary Edgar is the Director of Digital Strategy at APEX Public Relations. Follow him on Twitter.

Check out more posts from our Push Yourself blog challenge: The business of running and Do something awe-inspiring to reignite creativity.

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