Viral Venom: What My Mac Post Can Teach You About the Negative Side of Passionate Customers


I know a lot of people that have Macs, so I finally decided to give it a try. After a few weeks, I decided it wasn't for me, and I wrote about some of the things I didn't like. I am keeping the Mac, and using it for video work, but I'm not going to make it my day-to-day computer. I thought I would do my readers a favor and share my experience so that anyone considering a Mac could take my story into consideration. The response was shocking.

The post received over 50 comments, and I received another 40+ emails from people who didn't want to leave a comment. A small percentage of them were people with a similar experience – unimpressed by Macs. A slightly larger percentage was helpful comments about how to improve my experience with the Mac. Several people offered to answer any questions I had, and several explained that it really isn't intuitive for long-time PC users, and that I should give it a few months before I make a decision. But by and large, the comments and emails spewed hatred and profanities about how "f!cking stupid" I am, how much my blog sucks, why readers are going to drop my RSS feed (subscribers actually increased last week) etc. etc. Now, does anyone think Apple would encourage this? Belittling people is rarely a way to change anyone's mind.

It raises a very interesting question for businesses. They all want word of mouth. Most companies would love to have the kind of dedicated customers that Apple has. But, what do you do when they love your product so much that they turn off other people. Seriously, I have very very negative feelings towards Macs right now. I went from thinking "I'll keep the Mac, and wait to give Vista a test drive before deciding what to buy down the road" to "I never want to give Apple another penny. I hope they go out of business so that these suckers can't get any more of their precious computers."

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Several people commented on the rabid negativity in the comments. And it is likely some potential Mac purchasers were scared away by them. Regardless, it reflects very negatively on the Mac community. They come across like an unhelpful bunch that will mock you for not thinking like them. Which is odd, because the people I know personally that own Macs are always eager to give tips and help me navigate it.

As a business, you have to show how you are better than the competition. You want and appreciate when your customers are out there preaching for you, talking about the advantages of your product. But what do you do when an overzealous handful actually drive customers away? It's like sports – you want people to paint their faces and cheer for your team, but you don't want anyone fighting with the opponent's fans after the game because that reflects poorly on you.

Peter Drucker wrote that "rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility." When you create a product that stirs passion in people, they look up to you. Make sure your company sets the right values. I'm going to lobby Steve Jobs to add something about "helping others see the joy in Apple products" in the book that ships with every Mac.