Have you ever been so frustrated or angry that you were tempted to vent on Twitter? Barry Sutherland knows the feeling.
“Yeah, just like anyone else, I have moments when I really want to give someone a piece of my mind.”
But he always talks himself out of it, and now he’s helping others with the #KindTweetingChallenge, an idea meant to bring out the best in people. “I think both individuals and organizations are attracted to positive behavior,” said Sutherland, who is the Director of Business Development at McCarthy Building Companies in Overland Park, KS.
He was an early adopter of Twitter back in 2008 and like many of us, spends most of his time on the platform catching up on conversations across a range of topics. Over the years, Sutherland has watched Twitter turn into an outlet for nastiness and personal attacks. So with a little inspiration from his church, he decided to take a stand.
“My pastor spoke about the importance of living your best life and it really struck a chord with me. I see so much negativity and frustration on Twitter in particular, from politicians to sports fans, and I think this just isn’t what it’s meant for. I want to make a positive difference in some way, even if it’s small.”
Right now, Sutherland’s #KindTweetingChallenge is little more than a budding hashtag, but one that presents immediate potential.
“It’s just something that came to me. I thought, you know, let’s just start somewhere regardless of whether it takes off or not. I figured if one person picks up the message and challenges their own behavior — that’s winning.”
Sutherland says his only goal was to simply create an opportunity to practice civility.
“I decided I’m just going to put it out there as encouragement for others who might be interested in a positive option for their tweeting behavior, especially when they’re in a tough moment. And maybe they’ll even share it for others to think about.”
People are starting to share it, think about it and embrace it as an opportunity. Sutherland says he’s even been contacted by local news media.
“It’s funny how something so simple can get attention. That tells you something. We need some hope. You know, these days it seems things are pretty dark out there and it’s going to get even darker if we don’t rediscover civility and choose a better path.”
Sutherland is trying to tweet every day to give the #KindTweetingChallenge consistent exposure and makes an effort to connect the hashtag to trending topics so that Tweeters can see the impact of kindness in any situation.
“Kindness is bigger than social media, of course. Hopefully, the #KindTweetingChallenge helps people think about their behavior in general and start radiating kindness beyond their tweets.”
The Business of Kindness
McCarthy Building Companies welcomes Sutherland’s initiative. He says the idea aligns with company values and helps send the message the company cares about people and the communities it serves. Sutherland believes that gets to the heart of the matter and offers a lesson for other businesses.
“You don’t have to be sharply aggressive and competitive all of the time. That sort of ‘shark’ behavior might get some quick results, but it’s not good for longterm growth of relationships that drive business. The #KindTweetingChallenge connects with the rising emphasis on company values that partners and customers share.”
The reality is, your behavior, including your social media behavior, reflects on your business regardless of whether that’s your intention. Sutherland says the question is, what are you really saying with your tweets?
“I think there’s a direct correlation between the way business owners and employees act and the way people see that company.”
And it’s not just about tone and style, it’s also about content. Sutherland believes it’s time for businesses to evolve beyond relentless self-promotion on social media, and start sharing content that makes them more personable.
“Rather than ‘hey look at us, we do amazing things’ all of the time, flip it on its head and try something totally different. Share encouraging stories, and not just encouraging stories about your company, but maybe what you’re seeing in the community where you live or work, or maybe something cool that’s happening in the business world. You know, the kind of content that’s uplifting.”
Another piece of advice: don’t leave everything to your marketing department.
“McCarthy doesn’t assign me to tweet. Anyone working at any company can use social media, and when your message is positive, people look a little closer at you, and your behavior ends up associated with your company. Regardless of title or position, anyone can help generate positive feelings that bond important business relationships and have a lasting impact.”
What’s next for the #KindTweetingChallenge? Sutherland says he’s contemplating how to make a level-leap with the idea. Right now he’s still in the ignition stage but feels like there’s room to do more.
“I’ll keep thinking about where this can go because I’m convinced people still care and want opportunities to make the world a better place. If you continue thinking there’s nothing you can do to make a difference, then yeah, there’s probably nothing you can do. But if you offer a little glimmer of hope, and you share it, that’s a good feeling and achieves something in its own right.”