YOUR EXISTING BRAND
It’s fairly easy to find out what people are saying about you online. All you need to do is type your name into Google and have a look at the results. If you sign up for an alerts service like Google Alerts, Windows Live Alerts, Yahoo! Alerts or Bing News Alerts, you can get a daily digest about what is being said about you or your brand. If you have a blog there are search engines like Technorati or BlogPulse which specifically search through 200 million or so blogs and give you references to your name or other search terms that have been used on other blogs. Again, this is a useful way to find out who is talking about you’especially if there are no physical links or trackbacks to your blog from the originator’s blog.
Most of the new interactive applications have search facilities for you to gauge the mood and sentiment of the social media landscape. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all have search tools so you can find out what is being said about you or your brand. Twitter and most of the third party clients that connect to its application programming interface have search facilities. Twitter allows you to search for and retrieve a list of historical tweets for your hashtag, phrase or user name (Figure 8.1).
Figure 8.1 Twitter search
Searching for your brand in this way can give you an immediate sense about how your customers feel about you and lets you listen to their feedback, good or bad, about your company. It’s a good idea to regularly search for your product name, brand or company so that you can see what people are saying about you, identify changes in almost real time and, more importantly, have the opportunity to change customer perceptions based on your early actions and response.
Preserving your online reputation
As you already have an online presence on the web, with an established personal or corporate brand you will already have some sort of online reputation. You may think that it’s not relevant to you at all, but in the Web 2.0 world everyone has an online reputation, whether they realise it or not. Hopefully your online reputation is good at the very least. It would be nice to know if it’s neutral, upsetting if you find that it’s negative and absolutely devastating if it’s vilified or targeted by cyber bullies. So it’s important to consider how you can preserve your online reputation, especially as perception about you can change almost instantly.
The first thing that you could consider is to preserve your brand name. Take a popular enough name like that of my husband, Steve Brown. Typing his full name into the address bar returns a URL which redirects me to another site selling various things. Someone else has thought of registering his name like this before we have. They have registered the domain name http://SteveBrown.com and they are trying to make some revenue from someone who would like to purchase it—like him, or other Steve Browns across the world.
These names need to be registered on a long term basis with a domain hosting company. If you can manage to, try to purchase domain registrations for periods of longer than 2 years. After all, you’re not intending to change your name (unless you’re female and intending to change your maiden name when you marry). Securing your domain on a long term basis will ensure that no one else will be able to ’brand-jack’ your domain name if you forget to update the registration. If you have several corporate products which have brand identities in their own right, then it’s a good idea to register these too. There may also be trademarks which need to be considered in a corporate environment and registered with the appropriate trademark authority.
This all seems very innocuous so far, and only applies to someone who wants their own personally named domain. Imagine the problems that might arise if you were famous, in the media, or politics and someone was cyber squatting on your name. What if your name URL redirected to a very ‘unsuitable‘ site, and even worse, the fake ‘you‘ sites were turning up top of all of the search engines? What can you do to try and rectify things?
One of the best ways to be proactive about this is to buy all of the combinations of your name as domain names—including the unsavoury versions. So for our Steve Brown site example you could also buy:
You could also consider purchasing other combinations of the name that you can think of—even the domains that are —seedy—, abusive, or unsavoury. So you might buy:
and similar names.
Once you’ve secured the domain names use one of your registered names to start to build your positive online reputation. You could start to publish a blog on the domain. Wordpress and similar blogging platforms offer a simple way for you to redirect your own domain name to their website. If you want a website that is optimised for search engines (SEO) you need to make sure that you update the site often so that the web crawlers find fresh and updated content on a regular basis. Try to blog regularly in small manageable chunks so that the site is fresh and updated with frequent posts.
The search engine spiders will begin to crawl your website or blog, they will find updated content on it, and the spiders will start to visit it more regularly. Slowly, with diligence, your site domain name will rise up the page ranks and the site that you don’t actually own will slowly move down onto the second page of search results where people hardly ever look.
Pointers to your blog or website with fresh content will take precedence due to your regularly updated fresh content.
It will take some time to achieve this, but eventually you’ll be able to recover your position in the search engine rankings with positive messages about your site which will improve perception about your reputation. Remember: prevention is always better, and cheaper, than cure.
Damaging your reputation
On Facebook, or MySpace, if you have created pages for your brand, you might want to consider the security settings on the application. You may not wish to have inappropriate content posted on the page of a friend of a friend and find that the content is linked to your page and tarnishing your reputation. It only takes a few moments for your reputation to change. Humorous behaviour can also do reputational harm. Early in 2010 the UK suffered from an extended and unprecedented fall of snow which paralysed the country for several days. Police officers in Oxfordshire,44 wearing their high visibility jackets, were filmed using their riot shields to sledge down a snowy hill. It all seemed like fun, but these officers they were on duty. These videos were filmed using a mobile device which had the ability to immediately upload to YouTube. The viral nature of YouTube ensured the propagation of the links until it reached the eyes of the media, which took a dim view of their antics. Were their actions fun or irresponsible? Had the snow ‘brought out the child‘ in them, or did the policemen overstep the mark? The decision is yours.
The community decides and the power of the people has the ability to quickly change perception one way or the other.
When Steve Jobs was allegedly rushed into hospital with a heart attack, Apple’s stock plummeted. In October 2008, bloggers reported that Steve ’claimed to be suffering from chest pains’. The story had started on a site which was linked to the CNN network. Apple PR categorically denied45 the unfounded rumours. With citizen journalism, unsubstantiated rumours, and no validation from the company itself, there were a few upsets. Apple’s stock took a tumble, CNN’s credibility was in question in the media, and a Silicon Valley insider was heavily criticised for reporting on the story in the first place.
Sharing too much on Facebook
I’ve always smiled at the phrase ’What goes on tour, stays on tour’, and I’m sure that lots of us could share some stories if that sentence had never been uttered. However, in this world of digital connections, mobile phones with cameras and immediacy, I think we need an updated version:
What goes on tour stays on Facebook.
Facebook, with almost 600 million users, is growing at a fantastic rate. It took less than 9 months to add more than 100 million users to Facebook and there are over 1.5 million pieces of content shared daily. Some of this content isn’t suitable for viewing outside your immediate network, but it all too often slips through.
With Facebook’s friendly interface and connections to your friends and family it is often easy to forget that it is a public website with extensions to your connections.
Unfortunately, Facebook can be much more public than you realise. Some Facebook users publish information that should often be kept private. Your own Facebook privacy settings may ensure that no one outside your immediate family can see your photos or your status updates, but there is nothing to stop any one of your friends taking a screenshot and broadcasting your message more broadly. There are hundreds of examples of foolish status comments that have been propagated by email, blogged about and propagated as a .jpg screen clipping throughout the web.
Sixteen-year-old Kimberley Swann, who worked at Ivell Marketing and Logistics at Clacton on Sea, Essex, posted comments on Facebook complaining about her job from the first day she started work.
first day at work. omg (oh my God)!! So dull!!
all i do is shred holepunch n scan paper!!! omg!
‘im so totally bord!!!
Unfortunately her boss found her comments on Facebook, called her in to his office and terminated her employment. He said: ‘Following your comments made on Facebook about your job and the company we feel it is better that, as you are not happy and do not enjoy your work, we end your employment with Ivell Marketing‘Logistics with immediate effect.‘
Crystal Bell was fired via Facebook, according to the Kelowna Daily Courier. She had been working for Faces Cosmetics&European Day Spa in Kelowna, she had missed a meeting on her day off and didn&t call her boss to tell her.
It’s a good thing I checked my Facebook (site). I had one new message, so I went in and found that I had been fired by my boss.
Her message to me said she found it very unprofessional that I didn’t call and say I wouldn’t be at the meeting, and that I should find another job.
Firing someone on Facebook is not a professional way to do it.
Large companies also take a firm stand when finding out about indiscretions by their staff. Virgin Atlantic sacked 13 members of staff after they referred to their passengers as ‘chavs‘, a term referring to their perceived social standing and intelligence.
Following a thorough investigation, it was found that all 13 staff participated in a discussion on the networking site Facebook, which brought the company into disrepute and insulted some of our passengers. … It is impossible for these cabin crew members to uphold the high standards of customer service that Virgin Atlantic is renowned for if they hold these views.
Direct complaints on Facebook aren’t the only way to lose credibility. Status updates showing passive-aggressive behaviour can also be detrimental. Passive aggressive messages can include comments such as:
I love it when the client cancels our meetings.
It’s fantastic when one of my customers think that they have exclusive rights on my time.
Why can’t the support team be more helpful?
If you have a public persona for your team or company, people will know if you’re talking about them, even obliquely. They could imagine that you’re talking about them and become concerned about your hidden meaning. Facebook status updates are not the best place to vent your frustration. Your reputation and credibility will suffer and you may turn clients away. Being negative online has far reaching effects and as your customer engagement goal is to try and grow your business, and improve perception, refraining from being rude or belligerent is a very good idea. It’s easy to destroy your reputation with a few ill chosen words. It’s also very difficult to discover the source of some reputation attacks as some choose to hide their true identities when launching an attack.
Cloning and faking your identity
Identity fraud is distressing enough for the individual, but what would you do if your brand was being cloned and used to execute business on your behalf? Your website could be copied and used for illegal purposes, or used as a phishing site specifically designed to extract confidential, personal or financial details from the unwary user. Banks often have to deal with these issues as copied sites are hard to distinguish from the genuine article and unwary users can be tricked into sharing personal details. You might have a significant customer satisfaction issue and poor perception about your brand or the security of the website through no fault of your own. People may also impersonate you when playing MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, perhaps to gain status, award points or to damage your own standing in the game.
Designer labels have long been victims of piracy, with fake versions of designer items, usually produced in the Far East, appearing across Europe at cut down prices, but fake websites also abound to trick the unwary. Ugg boots are favoured by celebrities and mere mortals alike. They are sold in physical shops and also increasingly found online on websites and on eBay. Unfortunately there are also a lot of websites that offer fake Ugg boots. These are of inferior quality, and customers have complained about them. This poor quality fake merchandise has done damage to Ugg’s reputation. Ugg has been proactive in stamping out fake websites that pretend to be genuine Ugg websites selling genuine boots. Ugg Australia has a page on its website advising what you can do in order to purchase genuine Ugg boots and works with customs agencies and Internet service providers to stamp out instances of fake shipments and cloned websites.
Corporations such as banks now have stringent processes in place to search out fake copies of their websites which are used to phish information about bank accounts for fraudulent use. Generally these fake websites appear as hyperlinks on a phishing email, which, when clicked, direct the unwary to a copy of the original banking website, ready to receive your data. Once a fraudulent site is uncovered, there are several procedures in place to remove the DNS record for the site so the DNS name no longer resolves to an IP address at the website. There is also a process for longer term disputes over websites names. The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) can resolve disputes over Internet domain name registration. The policy applies to .biz, .com, .info, .name, .net, and .org top-level domains. It can also include some country code top-level domains and the UDRP can be engaged to act on your behalf if the domain name in question is identical or similar enough to be confused with a trademark or service mark owned by another company and the registered domain name is being used it ‘bad faith‘.
Preventing online identity theft
There are some precautions you can take, however, to try to prevent identity theft. To completely avoid identity cloning on a personal level, you need to be extremely cautious when you are on the web. Make sure you remain aware of your transactions and activities, and you need to always protect your personal information. Here are a few ideas you could consider:
Use different passwords for each online site you use, and don’t use sequential passwords to avoid phishing attempts on one site using the same or sequential logon details across other social networking sites that you use (LemonApple42, LemonApple43, LemonApple44 for example).
Use complex passwords with mixed case letters, numbers and a non-alphanumeric character. A good example is to use passwords that are not related or are not proper names. For example, you could use the first character of each word in a sentence to create your own acronym. Take the poem: ‘Mary had a little lamb; its fleece was white as snow‘. This would produce the following set of letters for your password:
Use numbers to replace certain letters. You might use 1 instead of the letter I, 3 instead of E and 4 instead of H. Your original acronym becomes following complex password:
This makes your memorable sentence and the process to create your password process logical. It makes complex passwords easy to create and easy to change especially if you have a long piece of text to draw inspiration from. Adding non-alphanumeric characters like %,&& ! ; ^ makes the password even more difficult to guess.
You can change your birth date. When you register on a website consider adjusting your birth date so that it is one or two days different from your actual birthday. You could adjust the year of your birth by a year or so. If your actual birth date is needed, the website will probably have a mechanism where a manual check, performed by a human, will highlight the difference and contact you to confirm the real date. The only slight irritation of changing the date of your birthday may be that your friends will send you birthday wishes on a different day than your real birthday. This is a small price to pay for knowing that your true date of birth does not appear on any website and your real identity cannot be used for other purposes.
You can never be totally safe from identity theft or cloning, but if you put as many challenges as possible in the way, you can help to mitigate this risk.
Now we’re online and active. We’re going to find our audience and search for the job or that candidate that we really want to find. Let’s now start to really publicise our online presence!