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Trolling and Reputation Management

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A “troll” is defined as a person who posts provocative, inflammatory, insulting, or derogatory messages in online communities such as those found on social media sites. Generally speaking, the two intentions of a troll are to elicit an “in kind” response that can result in a long thread of incendiary comments while seeking some kind of retribution or “payback”. In a reputation management context a troll can take one of three forms, which will determine whether a business should engage, keep the situation at arm’s length, or move the conversation off of the public platform.
 
The three types of internet trolls are:
 
1) One who expresses a legitimate concern – A troll who expresses a legitimate concern should be addressed, if not to satisfy the troll specifically, then to show the related community how your business responds both professionally and with concern to see if the issue can be rectified. Keep in mind that the issues that trolls bring up can actually help to improve a business and/or its products if their comments address a legitimate shortcoming, so don’t dismiss this type out of hand. Lastly, offering something for free to a troll to resolve the situation may make sense, but don’t do it. Once other trolls see that your business is rewarding complaints with free stuff, you’ll likely be bombarded with more complaints seeking the same freebies.
2) Attention seekers with nothing better to do – This type of troll thrives on the attention and the back and forth that results from a negative comment. An attention seeker is usually not interested in solving a problem and will instead try to keep the thread going even if a terrific solution is offered. At some point the business can bring the thread to a close with a comment such as “It appears that even the most generous solution we can provide in this situation will not be enough for you. We sincerely apologize for your inconvenience”, and leave it at that. Trust that your community is smart enough to see the situation for what it is and will move on.
3) The wrecking ball – Some trolls will be intent on causing as much damage to your company’s reputation as possible. This type of troll may be a disgruntled ex-employee, someone with a personal relationship and an ax to grind, or a competitor. Keeping in mind that your community will have access to this thread, ask to troll to contact the company directly to resolve the situation, which will effectively move the conversation out of the public view.
 
For any business on the web, the potential for trolls is a fact of life. Dealing with them professionally and expeditiously will reflect positively on your business and prevent the type of reputation management fiasco that many of them seek to create.

 

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Traditional public relations was the way companies managed their reputations and their public image. Whether the campaign was proactive or trying to fix an issue that was hampering a client, the typical PR response was made up of positive press releases and images of an organization helping endangered animals, orphans, or impoverished communities.

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It’s almost impossible to win with shameless link baiting, especially when it relates to a tragedy but that didn’t stop The Huffington Post’s blogger Tricia Fox from trying it anyway. On the day following the death of Amy Winehouse the posted her first blog titled “Amy Winehouse’s Untimely Death Is a Wake up Call for Small Business Owners” and a reputation management crisis was born.

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Is Reputation Management the New PR?

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In both PR and reputation management the objective is all about influencing the kind of information users see; one using traditional media while the other uses the web. While the objectives of each practice are similar, the methodologies used are quite different, the biggest being the characteristics of the medium employed by each one.

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As the practice of reputation management continues its rise as a brand building and protection tool, the calls for the death of Public Relations are increasing as well. This isn’t necessarily the case as the two strategies can be effectively partnered for successful results.

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If you’re running a local business you need to take every opportunity to both manage your business’ reputation while reaching out to your local clientele, especially when that opportunity comes at no cost. Some of the best of these no-cost resources for local businesses are the local listings such as Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Yelp.

 

There are three primary reasons for claiming your local listings through these providers:

 

1) Claiming your local listings provides an easy to use platform to publish your contact information, hours of operation, directions, etc. You can also engage in reputation management practices such as responding to negative reviews and building optimized profiles. Photos, video, coupons, and special offers can also be added to these sites.

 

2) Neglecting to claim your listings can reduce your local visibility, pose risks to your company’s reputation, and assist your competition. While some local resources will publish a skeleton description of your business, others may not post anything at all. For example, if someone is trying to find your business but you’re not listed, the chances are that they will move on to a business that is listed. An unclaimed local listing can also look sloppy with fuzzy pictures and random information – not what you’re looking for in terms of making a good first impression.

 

3) Local pages give you another opportunity to occupy rankings on the front pages of the search engines, a critical element of proactive reputation management.  

 

The search engines have made huge advances in terms of helping local businesses to get found by their local customers. Gaining that visibility while managing your reputation at no cost is the kind of deal you just don’t see every day.   

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The difference between an investment and an expense is typically seen as one of them costs money (an expense) while the other provides a return on capital, at least in theory. One of the more common perceptions regarding the practice of reputation management puts it in the expense category due to the costs involved when a company is trying to protect itself from negative content posted around the web.

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Reputation Management Tips for Local Businesses

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The importance of managing your local business’ reputation cannot be understated, but you probably have a long “to-do” list already. With that in mind, here are a few tips on reputation management that won’t take a lot of time but might just save you money, time and headaches down the road.

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Reputation Management and Defining the Haters

While organized efforts along the lines of corporate espionage to damage a competitor’s reputation do occur, the vast majority of reputation management headaches are simply the result of the honest complaints from unsatisfied consumers.

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Complaints are a fact of life for any business. The cold fact is that while the experience you provide or how your product performs may satisfy 99 people out of 100, there is still that one person out of a hundred that will express negative sentiments and pose the potential of becoming a reputation management problem.

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