Competition heating up
Recently, Facebook hired a public relations firm to enlighten journalists with negative stories about Google regarding information that is public domain but potentially overlooked by journalists and tech bloggers.
It is a long and twisted tale with nasty words being used for all involved, take Tech Crunch’s story “Sleazy PR Firm Throws Scummy Facebook Under The Sordid Bus” for example. Take special note that the URL is “techcrunch.com/2011/05/12/swallowing-puke/.”
This isn’t astroturfing, this is a PR stunt that the PR firm allegedly would have denied if Facebook hadn’t sold them out (and vice versa). This is an act that Facebook and a PR firm strategically created to hurt a competitor. It is a common practice in politics (smear campaigns, that is), but there are disclaimers and obvious motives in those cases. Here, press releases were sent to media outlets about Google and trust us, it is already tough enough to filter out the junk and fluff press releases, much less shady releases.
What you can learn
What happened here and what can you learn? Facebook got competitive. There’s nothing wrong with that.
You probably have a competitor going after the exact same demographic in the exact same neighborhood as you. You probably get frustrated when that competitor gets a listing you were sure would be yours.
But what you do in that moment of frustration is what can define the headlines you do or don’t make. Do you fire up your blog, throw out the code of ethics and write a blog article about what a jerk your competitor is and how you saw him kick a dog? Do you hire a public relations firm to pump out press releases about your competitor’s failing record? Do you go to their listings and kick over the signs? Do you go to their blog and leave anonymous comments posing as an angry consumer? Do you make a fake Twitter account and tweet about your competitor and what a slimeball he is?
Sadly, we’ve seen all of these things happen, many first hand. It’s exactly what Facebook did. Instead of focusing on improving their market share, they did the equivalent of kicking down yard signs.
When you’re feeling angry at a competitor or heck, a consumer, ex, or whatever, and feel empowered by the internet, step away from the computer. Chances are, the internet is smarter than you know and you’ll get caught because you have no idea that you’ve left virtual fingerprints all over your web activity and whether or not your bad behavior is being back pocketed by your competitors and saved for a special occasion.
What can you learn? Facebook and Google aren’t unique, this is happening in real estate online too. The people inside your computer aren’t stupid and the technology at peoples’ fingertips may be greater than you understand, so in that moment of frustration, keep it clean and step away from the computer- call your mentor and scream, do some yoga or go for a run but never ever take to the internet to do your dirty work because even Facebook can now attest that it will backfire no matter how smart you think you are.