Reputation Management – more on social networking WMDs…

July 9, 2007 at 11:11 pm 2 comments

This came back to me today with an article from the Washington Post (reprinted in the Seattle Times):  Defending Virtual Reputations. 

A few months ago I blogged about a local Seattle company called Visible Technologies (Online Brand Management:  Good, Bad or it depends).  In my post, I made a comparison to a weapons manufacturer where the weapons were neither good or bad, it depended on how they were used.  I’ve since had the opportunity to spend some time with Visible and owed a follow up.  First off, I was pretty impressed by what I saw…in particular the work they are doing around a product/service they call Trucast.  To be fair, I’ve not been a customer of this service, so this is not an endorsement, but the concept is right up my alley.  Here’s a run down on key capabilities for Trucast:

  • Monitor for new, relevant content and sort it into specific topics so you can make intelligent and timely business decisions.
  • Generate in-depth analytic reports via easy-to-use, web-based charts and graphs. Dashboards help identify influencers, interpret positive and negative conversations, and track the impact of key issues and trends.
  • Participate in online conversations and understand the impact of ongoing online discussions–a unique feature of our system.
  • Receive alert notifications when important new content is posted online.

So, they have created and automated technology for use as a listening system. To me, this sort of business intelligence is a must have on the roadmap for developing an effective community engagement model. 

They also have a product called TruView. Here’s a except from my earlier post regarding TruView:

TruView:  Reputation management service for organizations, brands, companies and/or people designed to “ensure that fair and accurate information is correctly ranked among the top 20 results on each site when people search for your company, products and services, or executive management team.”

hmmm.  Well, I can’t help but think that “fair and accurate” is often NOT aligned with what an org, brand, company or people want discovered first.  Who decides what is “fair and accurate?” – the users or the company?  And what steps does the service take to deliver on this product promise?  Dangerous but interesting ground.  I could sure see politicians and celebrities using a service like this and potentially with fair intent.  I could also see this used to the extreme in ways that really damage the utility of independent user communities – critical voices marginalized.

In Defending virtual reputations, the Wash Post reports on a growing trend to utilize 3rd party firms to “help improve clients’ Google results by creating links and burying negative ones.” The story shares some painful, real world examples, of individuals who as victims of blog attacks saw very negative content dominate the search results associated with their names.  This is very interesting ground the plow.  Michael Fertick of ReputationDefender comments that “Google’s not in the business to give you the truth, it’s in business to give what you think is relevant.” 

I wonder, had all this social media been in place when I was in high school or college, how might search impact my resume (or perceptions of potential employers)?  Or is Search now my resume – for good or for bad.  I’m glad these companies/services exist as I think this is an important service when warranted and used with good intent (particularly when that involves protecting children)…I guess the philosophical question is how do you define “warranted” or “good intent?”  

It won’t be long (I think) before we hear stories of people/organizations using these sorts of services in disruptive/dishonest ways.  It’s hard to blame the manufacturer/service provider in this as they are providing the tools, but they are also profit motivated.  To me, this will be an exciting space to watch and I’m glad I’m getting to know some of the players in this space.  Love to hear your thoughts on this.

Sean

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ernst Kuschke  |  July 10, 2007 at 3:05 am

    You know, the fact that someone’s virtual reputation could so easily be manipulated either in a positive or negative way makes one wonder how reliable / dependable search results on a name will be in the near future!

    Using the same tactics as this “Reputation Defending” company, one could negatively affect anyone’s online reputation.

    This probably makes networking sites like LinkedIn more valuable (where links can write up recommendations for each other), though this is in fact equally easy to abuse…

    Reply
  • 2. Blake Cahill  |  July 11, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Sean:

    Thanks for the follow up.

    I am glad we had a chance to meet and spend more time showing you our services.

    Look forward to staying in touch.

    Blake Cahill
    VP of Marketing
    Visible Technologies

    Reply

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