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Transparency Dictates We Grow Thicker Skins

March 14, 2011 2 comments

Last week Chrysler made a social media faux pas. They accidentally dropped the “F” bomb. Well…the social media company they hired dropped the bomb. Actually somebody at the social media company did.

What was the offensive tweet? (Fair warning, adult conversation with adult words is about to happen.)

@ChryslerAutos – “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.”

As a result of one word, the employee lost their job and a few days later, the entire agency was fired. Meanwhile at the Academy Awards, everyone thinks Melissa Leo’s passionate blurting of the F bomb was no big deal.

Ironically Chrysler’s new spokesman is Eminem, a Detroit rapper famous for his profanity laden rhymes. But the social media person is the one that got fired. They’re the one that didn’t meet the standard of

Chrysler Group and its brands do not tolerate inappropriate language or behavior, and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this communication.

I don’t care. Most adults don’t. That’s the reality of social media. We now see things transparently. The stereotypical 50’s families like Ozzy and Harriet never existed. Clever Hollywood types presented this illusion of perfection as reality, but it’s not. Reality is full of curse words, alcohol, sex and all sorts of other things adults have proven over and over to be able to handle.

Chrysler is making a bigger ass of themselves by making an issue of this. If you’re going to fire this company, fire Eminem too. Transparency shines a light on everything good and bad.

In the transparent age, we need to be more forgiving. Not only is Chrysler hypocritical for firing their social media company, they’re hypocritical for firing them for a genuine mistake. How many cars does Chrysler recall each year for mistakes? I’ll bet it’s more than one!

We no longer live in a sanitized world. If we crave transparency, we have to accept everything that light illuminates. America elected a President with a DUI. We tolerated Dick Cheney’s off mic profanity. We’ll just have to accept an accidental F bomb from the car company Eminem reps.

Oh the humanity…

Social Media Blunders – Please Don’t be an Ash

June 25, 2010 1 comment

Some companies are extremely fearful of social media because people can actually say what they want – good or bad.  Yesterday, I watched a negative social media interaction unfold before my eyes.  Another Utah SEO Company, SEO.com made a post on their Facebook page and a disgruntled client responded.  SEO.com could have responded in several ways:

  1. Ignore the post,
  2. Delete the post,
  3. Engage the complaint.

They made the right choice.  They engaged their client and even offered to re-examine their account.  Perfect response.  I posted it here as I love to see how businesses handle social media when it goes “wrong.”  This blog posts to both my personal Facebook page and my Fan page

Some of my friends commented on the personal page including my podcast co-host Janet Thaeler.  Some people from SEO.com found out about it and commented on the post over here, but I guess they found Janet’s comments through Facebook and read what she wrote.

As you know, my policy on Facebook is I don’t friend people I don’t know.  When two SEO.com employees sent friend requests, I sent back my standard reply to connect on LinkedIn.  Turns out they wanted to comment to Janet through my personal page. 

One of them, Ash Buckles, decided he didn’t want to do that.  Instead, he registered a website in Janet’s name and posted an article that libeled her and called me names!  Then he posted it all over Twitter!  Bad form Ash.  Do you do that with clients that leave you?  Absolutely unacceptable.

Janet was attending a conference and began texting me and then she called because not only did he put up this site, he direct messaged her some unkind words on Twitter.  Janet’s friends began standing up for her.  I decided cooler heads should prevail and tried to call Ash, but couldn’t get through on SEO.com’s phone directory.  So I tweeted my phone number to him to call.  By that time, I noticed the site in Janet’s name was down.  Thank goodness!  But the damage had already been done.  Thousands of people had already seen this unfold publicly.

I spoke to Janet again and Ash called her during our call.  Apparently he offered half an apology, because he thought he was right and apparently the VP of Marketing at SEO.com had made the suggestion as well as making him take down the site.  Then he called me, because of my tweet.  No apology.  He suggested I friend him and then unfriend him so he could comment on my page.  No Ash, that’s not the way I do it.  If you want to respond, copy and paste the conversation to a public forum like my fan page or my blog and respond there.

I told him he needed to publicly apologize to at least Janet.  This is what he said:

FTR: I apologized to @NewspaperGrl. HUGE misunderstanding. Everybody can get on with their Friday.

So the moral of the story is be really, really careful about how you use social media.  Hijacking someone’s name and then calling them a plagiarizer is not good business, especially when they didn’t do anything wrong!

I think Ash should take the new domain in Janet’s name and put all her social media contacts on it until the name expires next year.  At that time, he should let Janet decide what to do with it.  That would be a fitting apology.

Nestle Makes Butterfinger Move on Facebook

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Add Nestle to the growing list of big companies that have been embroiled in social media scandals.

In this situation, Nestle is taking heat for two things.  One involves environmental protestors and deforestation for the palm oil the chocolate maker uses to make its candy bars.  Not too big of a deal.  All businesses get complaints from time to time.

The other regards their policy of using their logo online.  In a heavy handed statement last week, the company announced on Facebook

Again, not so bad.  Even though the future of the web is “open source” old school brands like Nestle like to think they still have control of their logos and intellectual property.  One of the things I love about Facebook and Twitter is they let people create with their logos.  Is it any wonder they’re growing as fast as they are?  Google is also creative with their logo by having their home page image changed for holidays and events.

The true sin Nestle is guilty of is how they actually responded to criticism.  Besides deleting comments they didn’t like, they were snippy in responses.  Again this article captured the mistake –

One company that stands out to me for handling criticism is Sears.  Last year a franchise store driver accidently ran over a dog during a delivery.  Though the franchise owner did nothing, once Sears corporate heard about the problem, they took care of it.

As a business, you can’t bend over backwards to every extreme demand, but you can recognize that you listened.  That was the lesson from Sears and the squished pup.  Nestle’s social media people are listening and fighting back.  You can’t win fighting people online.  Don’t try.

The Nestle battle is still going on.  This Australian article claims 4,000 Australians have fanned Nestle’s page…to post negative comments.  It will be really interesting to see how this gets resolved, if at all.

Analog Marketing – Utah Stomper’s Meetup

October 23, 2009 9 comments

Utah Stompers GroupWord of mouth is such a powerful marketing tool and ultimately that is the heart of social media.

I was in analog mode last evening when I met up with the Utah Stomper’s monthly meeting at Mimi’s in Sandy, UT.

Stompernet is an Internet marketing education system I don’t really know that much about.  After tonight, I’m curious.  Here you can read a Stompernet review that matches up with what I heard tonight.

Tonight’s topic was outsourcing (both onshore and offshore) and Kevin Davis passed out the most amazing information I’ve ever seen.  Kevin produces a lot of websites in a short period of time and utilizes contract workers in the U.S. as well as overseas workers.  His handout detailed who his employees are, where they work, how much they’re paid, when they work, common tasks assigned, software used and how they’re paid.  It was brilliant.  Thanks for sharing Kevin!

That was great, but it got better.  As people started filtering out, a smaller group remained and just started asking questions.  Spencer Shaw asked about offline advertising through radio and TV.  Kevin called up a friend and put him on speakerphone and he spoke for about 10 minutes about the advertising opportunities the recession is creating.  Ryan Bradshaw shared a half page of notes for ideas on web video and SEO.  Mimi’s food was great and it was an evening well spent in analog space.

While I learned a lot about specific web marketing tactics, some larger business trends became quite obvious by the way people were speaking.  Please remember this was a very diverse group of very smart people.  Most were business owners, but some were employed by others.

Here are the larger scale items I took away from the meeting:

Video is the next big trend and social media is driving it. Ryan quoted a Comscore survey detailing there are more videos on the Internet, than the entire population of the world.  Specific recommendations from authoritative sources are going to drive views.

The recession is driving the creation of small businesses and suppliers are adapting. Too big to fail is now too big to succeed.  The in-depth discussion we had on outsourcing tells me this will be a world-wide phenomenon.  The economic recovery is not coming from above, but from down below.  Trickle down economics won’t drive this recovery, pushing up will.

Referrals from people with authority will drive business activity i.e. – social media. With less time and less money, consumers have to make smarter decisions.  We rely on information from trustworthy sources.  Social media makes it easy to connect with those sources and share that information.  I wouldn’t have come to this meeting if not for a recommendation from Ryan.  I wouldn’t have met Ryan if not for Meetup.com which was referred to me by my friend Strider.  Do you see what I’m getting at?

Utah Stomper’s is an open group.  Maybe I’ll see you next time!

Why Mainstream Media is Failing…

October 21, 2009 6 comments

nook press

They’ve fired all the editors or at least off shored them to Eastern Moldavia.  This story on Barnes & Noble’s new e-book reader the Nook appeared this morning on CNN.  My tech friends on Facebook were talking about it, so I decided to check it out.

I’m a stickler for details, so I was shocked to see a spelling error in the subheading.  When I re-read the article I saw a grammatical error on the fourth line of the subheading.  This is above the fold stuff people!

The screen shot is above in case they fix the error.  Sadly, they probably won’t.  And we wonder why the press is going down hill…

Reputation Management and Creating Expectations

October 14, 2009 1 comment

three_strikesYesterday, we talked about the hypocrisy of reputation management.  In that example, I showed a convicted felon who had gone out of his way to create a perfect Internet image.

Today, I’m going to discuss someone with a potentially soiled Internet image.  Me.

I’ve mentioned several times I used to have a real estate blog, but I never provided the proper context of its existence.  I began it in the Fall of 2006 just when many popular real estate markets were beginning to see a top in housing prices.  From my perspective in Utah, I didn’t see a problem.  As I continued writing, it became apparent that I, along with many others, had misjudged.

What I didn’t realize when I started blogging was how passionate (read angry) many people who had been priced out of the housing boom in markets like California, Arizona and Florida had become.

On top of all this, I chose to associate myself with a failed real estate investor from California to help promote my newly launched blog.  I soon discovered the perils of blogging under my real name.

You can still see remnants of those times when you do a Google search for me.  The Internet never forgets.  Sure I’m not going to Federal prison, or pictured doing keg stands with loose fitting clothing, but in these tight economic times, why risk hiring a guy who some anonymous Internet commenter wrote, “Swaby was initially known online as a prime example of how virtually anyone can enter the real estate business with few, if any, credentials.”

That anonymous commenter was right.  At the time I began my real estate blog, I had only earned two different licenses and had personal experience with buying and selling five different properties.  Since any record of my blog is gone from the search engines, they win by default.  I must be the person they say I am, because no Internet record for the defense has been entered.  Not true!  It was asked, answered and then deleted by Google.  But that’s another story.

The interesting thing about this Google entry is the description text that shows up on the search result is fairly innocuous.  Indeed, it’s a direct quote from a press release I wrote.  Only if one clicks on the article do they see the criticism leveled at me.

Another of the three negative entries that shows up on the first page of Google for my name is a parody site mourning my absence.  It was last updated two and a half years ago.

My reputation management nightmare is also Chloe Sevigny’s reputation management nightmare.  I am but a shred in the site called Twelve Years Of Being Annoyed By Chloe Sevigny. However, its SERP description is the worst of those that appear on Google’s front page. If you actually click through to read the article it’s got a lot of quotes from me that explain my position.  Ultimately it is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions for the arguments that were presented at the time.  If you’ve followed the story’s conclusion at all, you will know that my stance proved to be truthful and not some ruse.  Indeed Caseypedia, the other negative entry on my name, records the history afterwords and shows my assertions to be true.  Negative comments about me stopped years ago.

Anonymous or not?

At the root of any Internet criticism is the source and the evidence.  It is quite easy to be anonymous on the web, it is much harder not to be.  Consider the founder of Tech Crunch –

Michael Arrington, whose TechCrunch blog empire attracts 6 million readers each month, has gone on a monthlong hiatus after three years of nonstop blogging. His break was prompted, he says, by burnout and by the craziness of the blogosphere (he says he’s been stalked, threatened and spat on)

I can personally assure you such offenses and much worse occur on the web.  Funny enough they are always committed by anonymous individuals.  The biggest criticism my few remaining detractors have about me concerns anonymity.  It has been said you shouldn’t bring a knife to a gun fight.  I didn’t.  When confronted with anonymous attackers, I removed their masks.  Some hated me for it.  Aspeth wrote –

To clarify, in just March of this year, Nigel Swaby, a licensed mortgage broker who has access to financial and credit software, decided to post the identities of three frequent posters at EN. I don’t know if he abused his professional position in order to triangulate his information. But it is incredibly unsettling that someone in this position would do that, particularly considering the “grand offense” that catalyzed his actions.

It’s actually funny reviewing this statement.  It confirms the ignorance of people like “Aspeth.”  No financial or credit software revealed any identities…it was the WordPress commenting software.  It’s also interesting to note that of the three “outed” people who were so violated by my behavior, two of them are my friends of Facebook.  If you tear away the masks, you only reveal the humanity behind them.  The third “outed” person has called me on several occasions and I consider her a friend.  Yet this potentially negative Internet reputation still remains.

Dare to speak online?

One of the points made in CNN’s article about online dirt was you shouldn’t express an opinion online for fear of alienating an employer.  This website questioned this logic.

In the article, the writer dishes up “five ways to build a digital footprint that won’t scare away future employers”   Point four, “Avoid joining groups or engaging in online activities that could embarrass or restrict opportunities,” states:

Of course, during a job hunt you should consider your overtly controversial activities such as political, religious or social movements, Merritt says.
No, the above paragraph was not translated from the Russian out of a 30-year-old issue of Pravda.  I found this article on CNN’s website!

That author has a good point.  Why should you fear to express yourself on the Internet?  My honest answer is the Internet is scary.  Hide behind an alias or protect your Facebook account if you want to be controversial or political.  In real life you hold back on your political and religious opinions at work.  Why wouldn’t you behave with the same discretion online?  I would have loved to have talked about President Obama’s Nobel Prize when it was announced, but I let that traffic go.  Ultimately, that’s the only reason I would have to talk about politics…traffic.  I’m not a political blogger, so I keep that away from my business.

What expectations should be made for reputation management?

1.  Expect negative – Unless you’re Mary Poppins, something negative is going to turn up.  You simply can’t please everybody.  How you deal with the negative is more important than there being anything negative to begin with.

2.  The good should outweigh the bad – If you haven’t had a hate campaign engaged against you, what shows up on the Internet should be overwhelmingly representative of who you are.  For my SERP, 7 out of 10 are my creation or even positive.

3.  What isn’t said, speaks volumes – Does nothing show up when you search for your name, company or brand?  That’s worse than something negative, because it says you’re ignoring opportunities on the Internet.

4.  If it’s too good to be true, it probably is – Like Steve Cloward’s online profile, perfection doesn’t mean anything.  Perfection invites a closer look because none of us are perfect.

5.  Old issues have probably been dealt with – If something negative shows up from a while ago, find out how it was resolved.  If it’s not a burning issue for the critic any more, it probably shouldn’t be a burning issue for a vetter.

If you’ve got an opinion, someone on the Internet has a counter opinion.  Sometimes they’ll provide a well-reasoned, cogent argument against you.  Other times they’ll call you a “dooty head” in an ad hominem attack.  Either way they do it, on the Internet it’s permanent.  How are you going to manage your Internet reputation?

Steve Cloward and Reputation Management

October 13, 2009 7 comments

reputation managementPerform a Google search of Steve Cloward and you will see the picture develop of a local businessman and family man succeeding against the travails of the world.

We base a lot of what we think, that first impression, on what we see on the Internet.  If what we see is good, we think positively about the person, organization or company we’re looking up.  If we see bad things…complaints, criticisms and so forth, we think negatively.  At the least, we question the object of our search.

The Steve Cloward search shows numerous social networking profiles, videos, photos and even pay-per-click ads to fill up that first page of Google with what he wants you to see about his business and family.  Based on what you see, you’d think this person is reputable and honest.  Perhaps, someone you might want to do business with right?  Steve even wrote –

I had the great fortune to learn a lot about business and focusing on satisfying the customer. Customer satisfaction, by offering a great service, at a fair price, in a fair amount of time, is all you need to focus on and the business income will take care of itself. The employees in any business are the answer to your success.

Steve Cloward’s Internet reputation seems perfect.  A bit too perfect.  You see, at the time of this writing, Mr. Cloward is behind bars…not at the Utah County jail, not even the State Penitentiary.  Steve Cloward is in Federal Prison in Colorado for his part in a $50 million real estate fraud scheme.  ADX Florence is one of two “Supermax” prisons housing the likes of

  • Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
  • 911 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui
  • Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols
  • Shoe bomber Richard Reid
  • and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph

There’s also a minimum security branch where Cloward is likely serving with Enron conspirator Andy Fastow.

Steve Cloward pleaded guilty to fraud in 2008 and clearly spent his time before reporting to prison for 33 months trying to clean up his online reputation.  On my old real estate blog, I followed the story closely.  In fact, one of my old breadcrumbs still shows up on page five of the Cloward SERP.  When Steve completes his prison sentence, he’ll be working toward paying a multi-million dollar Federal judgment without the benefit of his appraisers license that has been justifiably revoked.

This knowledge makes reading his website a little bit more informative, especially when he tries to explain why he isn’t an appraiser any more.  Isn’t it coincidental his business had a name change right after the first indictment was handed down?  My favorite statement on his site concerns the economy which he had a direct hand in bringing down –

Through Planet Buzz.com and the My Buzz Code business opportunity that is offered by Planet Buzz, there are multiple verticals and niche markets to go after. Pick yours, call me today and start your financial recovery from the losses in the market, jobs, and overall economy.

I know it seems like I’m picking on this guy, but I followed every step of this case very closely and even got some behind the scenes info from people close to the case.  I don’t think Steve Cloward deserves a free pass because he engaged in reputation management strategies.

Even if I didn’t know who this person was, some of his strategies scream of trying too hard.  For instance the keyword stuffing on the right side of his “home” page.  He’s also got multiple home pages here and here.  There’s a blog he stopped updating last year and a Myspace page with only five friends and no recent activity.  His Twitter account has one tweet and his other account has been banned.  You can see why here.

Overall, Mr. Cloward has done a good job of covering his tracks.  He’s been helped by the fact several other people have his same name, but the majority of it has been working at pushing the bad stuff down…a strategy CareerBuilder recommends for the non-felons among us.

“Potential employers are far less likely to find something if it is on the 10th page of your search results,” Grossbart says.

“It can also be worthwhile to post more content to the same site. If your dirt is on Facebook, then posting more good professional content right there is likely to replace your dirt.”

What can we learn from Steve Cloward about online reputation management?

1.  Create multiple social networking profiles, even if you don’t use them.  The power of the network will SEO you to the top.

2.  Create blogs with your name heavily featured.

3.  Buy domains with your name in them and put up a landing page with basic info.

4.  Create multiple Twitter accounts containing your name.

Whether you’re a hard partying college student seeking a job, a company with detractors or a convicted felon, you can probably use some reputation management online.  Steve Cloward’s strategy is brilliant at pushing down the negative, but not so brilliant in creating a realistic portrait that doesn’t beg for more questions to be asked.

In my next article I’ll discuss how to assess negative information about you on the Internet.

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