A few incidents have taken place this week that made me think about - and consider - online reputation management. The internet has always moved fast, but I think the blogosphere moves faster.
Information gets published faster. News travels faster. Words spread faster.
This can be a great thing if the news and words are positive. If not, there's a good chance the negative will go farther, faster.
Here's three internet blips that most people will eventually forget, but Google will probably remember:
1. Negative Publishing That Gets Personal
The particular incident I'm referring to started with a negative post about an agent, and was published on the Redfin blog. It was a rant that got extremely personal. There didn't seem to be a constructive point or reason for posting this, and the reaction was swift. The story has been re-told and linked-to enough, but here's a good timeline that illustrates how fast this all took place.
It was on the radar and then gone pretty fast. But the damage had been done (and a writer fired), and now the whole episode has been cataloged and archived, hyperlinked and referenced, and turned into a learning experience. So we should learn.
Why go negative? There so much to write about that it's really not necessary.
2. Personal Conversations on Public Sites May Not Be So Personal
I've just started using Twitter - and I do love the speed with which you can get info out to the public. How wordy can get in 140 characters?
But Twitter can also be used for personal conversations between members, tweets that don't make it into your public stream. As TechCrunch reported this earlier this week there was a Privacy Disaster At Twitter: Direct Messages Exposed. A Twitter user named Orli Yakuel discovered that her private conversations were going into her public stream and updating her 650 followers. These were then sent to her FriendFeed. She eventually shut her Twitter account down - after deleting the messages was unsuccessful - but at that point it was like closing the barn door.
In the end it wasn't a Twitter issue or glitch - the problem was caused by a third party app with unclear instructions and a minor human error.
And the result was personal conversations and personal information being publicly broadcasted. And then reported on. More lessons.
3. Brand & Name Protection
Name recognition is a powerful marketing advantage in any medium, but I think it's heightened online because a name can be a person, product/service and web profile - all in one.
Or a Twitter account. Or a Google AdWords term.
Seth Godin reported a few months ago that there was a Fake Twitter Godin who was a total impostor. This person wasn't doing anything malicious, just linking to some SG posts. But it was enough to lead some to believe it was the real Seth Godin and that he was ignoring them. Minor damage, but done.
More recently, a Seattle Condo Specialist named Ben Kakimoto (author of the Seattle Condo Blog) discovered that his name was now a Google AdWord. For a local competitor. The real Ben Kakimoto recently shared his experience of being Assasingoogled. To take this sneaky play to a new level of strangeness, the fellow REALTOR® that was using Ben's earned name recognition is actually a colleague in his own company.
So Ben finds himself competing against his own name. His earned results next to a paid ad pretending and suggesting to be him.
And how confusing would that be to the consumer who finds and then responds to the ad? So... where is this Mr. Kakimoto I read about in your ad?
Three unrelated examples of some of the things happening out there. Reputations can take a long time to build, and short time to dismantle.
My advice: Keep tabs on your name and brand. Track it. Protect it. Defend it if necessary. Take my Mom's advice.
My Mom's advice: If you don't have anything nice to say, you know the rest.