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Realtors and brokers managing web reputations – what about when it is a crisis?

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It's more than protecting yourself- what do you do when your name is smeared?

Online reputation management for real estate

So you’ve learned about all of the listening tools for conversations happening about you online, you’ve done your homework and are actively engaged in the community so you can earn the reputation you desire while monitoring the space…

But what if your name becomes a bad word online, you become an internet meme, you become the target of viscious blogger bullying or your company is being drug through the mud? What if a picture of you leaks that is less than flattering? What if a former client writes on their blog lies about you and is the first result on Google when searching for your team website? What if you go through a divorce and your ex is posting crazy stuff about you all over the place?

What if you experience a crisis? The kind that feels career ending and soul crushing? Your monitoring tools can’t fight a crisis, they can only warn you of an active crisis.

Feeling like beating up a blogger?

Responses vary depending upon your experience level online.

The beginner: If you’re brand new and you see a chastising tweet about you (or to you), you might immediately scream libel to anyone that will listen. You may call the person who tweeted and threaten their business and call them names. You may call their broker and lecture them on the virtues of the Code of Ethics. You’re just not used to the culture of the web yet and it all feels so big and uncontrollable.

Intermediate: If you’ve been online for a year, comments have less of a sting. But if someone focuses a blog article on you personally and uses your name in the title with derogatory terms, leaves anonymous comments all around blogs or starts a Facebook page about how much you suck (true or not), that is bothersome. Your response will likely be to contact that person directly and politely ask them to remove the content and discontinue. You won’t threaten to kill anyone and at this phase, your skin isn’t thick but it’s thickening.

Native: If you’ve been online since you were a teen, you know that trolls come in all shapes, sizes and professions and they can’t be trained. You’ll give them a dose of their own poison, spin the situation your way or let it go altogether. It doesn’t hurt personally unless it is a personal friend and at this phase, it is doubtful that you’ll spend much time on anything that isn’t business-threatening.

But what if a crisis becomes too big?

When a real crisis occurs that is spreading like wildfire, your name is appearing as a pejorative all over the internet, and the crisis threatens you personally or professionally, there are two solutions: (1) take things into your own hands to attempt to reclaim your name by having your own URL and writing prolifically or (2) hiring a professional to scrub the web like Reputation.com and others can.

NYT recently covered the rise of companies that offer the ability to erase the digital past. Methods include contacting webmasters and the like and there are teams that are devoted to removing the negative items. They know all the terms of service of each web host, blogger platform and social network and know how to negotiate the system. If you’re a successful agent or brokerage, you don’t likely have time to become an expert in yet another field, so professional help may be necessary if your name is being smeared and you don’t want consumers to be distracted by blogger mafias or heresay.

When you are beyond professional help

The truth of the matter is that if what you’ve done that is being spread around the web is legitimately bad and you’ve screwed up, a lawsuit is not your answer, and an apology and explanation goes much further than “just be yourself” like the social media gurus are telling you. Some things can be spun, but if not addressed fast enough, you’ll be beyond any professional web scrubber or public relations professional’s help and your only recourse is to apologize, explain, take it on the chin and keep working your butt off. If Alec Baldwin can recover from screaming to his child that she’s a little piggy, your sins will eventually be forgotten by the majority too… IF you own your mistake rather than lie about it or ignore it.

Recently, Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy.com posted a video of himself killing an elephant in Zimbabwe. Internet users called it a brutal killing and criticized his bragging about murdering an endandered animal. Parsons said this was a “problem elephant” that trashed crops and the Zimbabwe people have so little he was simply providing them with food. He filmed the villagers frantically hacking the elephant to pieces for food and he dubbed in AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” for effect.

The public relations world let out a universal gasp as his videos were released and his response has been flippant as he maintains he is a savior to the villagers. Parsons is beyond professional help and as the world calls out for boycotts of GoDaddy with step by step instructions posted around the web as to how, his business will likely take a hit. His only reproach at this point is to apologize (which he has said he won’t) and to let time shift the focus to the next reason to be universally angry.

The takeaway:

If your business is shady or you’re just an awful person, your chances of being targeted online are high. There is a sense of justice in the defensive world of internet culture and when you violate what the most vocal of your niche believe to be “right,” outrage will ensue. You can choose to deal with it yourself by being active in comments and being your own public relations team and try to outrank the posts yourself or hire a professional.

Either way, just remember John Gabriel’s theory, try to do the right thing at all times and be a good person, and when all else fails, there is professional help.

As a sidenote, if you are threatened personally in a way that puts your safety at risk (someone is posting death threats online or publishing your home address encouraging people to burn your house down, etc.), PLEASE don’t fret over calling a professional, you need to immediately call the local police.

Social Media

Facebook pays $52M to content mods with PTSD, proving major flaw in their business

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook will pay out up to millions to former content moderators suffering PTSD to settle the 2018 class action lawsuit.

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content moderators

Facebook’s traumatized former content moderators are finally receiving their settlement for the psychological damage caused by having to view extremely disturbing content to keep it off of Facebook.

The settlement is costing the company $52 million, distributed as a one time payment of $1,000 to each of the 10,000+ content moderators in four states. If any of these workers seek psychological help and are diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their jobs, Facebook also has to pay for that medical treatment. They pay up to $50,000 per moderator in additional damages (on a case-by-case basis).

Facebook also will offer psychological counseling going forward, and will attempt to create a type of screening for future candidates to determine a candidate’s emotional resiliency, and will make one-on-one mental health counseling available to content moderators going forward. They will also give moderators the ability to stop seeing specific types of reported content.

According to NPR, Steve Williams, a lawyer for the content moderators, said, “We are so pleased that Facebook worked with us to create an unprecedented program to help people performing work that was unimaginable even a few years ago. The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

Honestly, this job is not for the faint of heart, to say the least. Like the hard-working, yet not unfazeable police officers on Law & Order SVU, seeing the worst of humanity takes a toll on one’s psyche. Facebook’s content moderators are only human, after all. These workers moderated every conceivable–and inconceivable–type of disturbing content people posted on the 2 billion-users-strong social media platform for a living. Some for $28,800 a year.

I wouldn’t last five minutes in this role. It is painful to even read about what these content moderators witnessed for eight hours a day, five days a week. While Facebook refuses to admit any wrongdoing, as part of the agreement, come on, man. Graphic and disturbing content that upset someone enough to report to Facebook is what these people viewed all day every day. It sounds almost like a blueprint for creating trauma.

This settlement surely sets the precedent for more class action lawsuits to come from traumatized content moderators on other social media platforms. The settlement also shows this business model for what it is: flawed. This isn’t sustainable. It’s disgusting to think there are people out there posting heinous acts, and I am grateful the platform removes them.

However, they have to come up with a better way. Facebook employs thousands upon thousands of really smart people who are brilliant at computer technology. Twitter and YouTube and similar platforms do, too. They need to come up with a better plan going forward, instead of traumatizing these unfortunate souls. I don’t know what that will look like. But with Facebook’s sky-high piles of money and access to so many brilliant minds, they can figure it out. Something’s got to give. Please figure it out.

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Twitter will give users a warning before a harmful tweet is sent

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter is rolling out a new warning giving users a chance to edit their tweet before they post “harmful” language, and we aren’t sure how to feel about it.

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Twitter is testing out a new warning system for potentially offensive tweets. If a tweet contains language Twitter deems “harmful,” Twitter will pop up with a warning and opportunity to revise the potentially offensive tweet before posting. The warning mentions that language in the tweet is similar to previously reported tweets.

If internal alarms are going off in your head, congratulations, you are wary of any censorship! However, if you read a tweet spewing with bile, racism, or threatening violence against a person or institution, do you report it? Do you want Twitter to take it down? If you said yes, then congratulations, you want to protect the vulnerable and fight hatred.

If you are wary of censorship, yet want to fight hatred and protect the vulnerable, welcome to the interwebs! It’s a crazy and precarious place where almost anything can happen. Despite decades of use, we’re still navigating our way through the gauntlet of tough decisions the proliferation of platforms and ease of use have given us.

First, how does Twitter gauge a potentially harmful tweet? According to Twitter, the app responds to language similar to prior tweets that people have reported. Twitter, like Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms, already has hateful conduct rules in place. In fact, Twitter has a host of rules and policies intended to protect users from fraud, graphic violence, or explicitly sexual images.

Their rationale is detailed, but explains, “Our role is to serve the public conversation, which requires representation of a diverse range of perspectives.” However, they “recognise that if people experience abuse on Twitter, it can jeopardize their ability to express themselves.”

We’ve heard stories of teenagers–or even younger children–killing themselves after relentless bullying online. The feeling of anonymity when insulting a living, breathing being from behind a computer screen often causes a nasty pile-on effect. We’ve seen people use social media to bully, sexually harass, and threaten others.

Twitter cites research showing women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and other vulnerable populations are more likely to stop expressing themselves freely when someone abuses them on social media. Even Kelly Marie Tran, who played Resistance fighter Rose Tico in Star Wars, took down her Instagram photos before taking a stand against haters. And she had Jedis in her corner. Imagine your average person’s response to such cruel tactics?

We’ve seen hate groups and terrorist organizations use social media to recruit supporters and plan evil acts. We see false information springing up like weeds. Sometimes this information can be dangerous, especially when Joe Blow is out there sharing unresearched and inaccurate medical advice. Go to sleep, Blow, you’re drunk.

As an English major, and an open-minded person, I have a problem with censorship. Banned books are some of my favorites of all time. However, Twitter is a privately owned platform. Twitter has no obligation to amplify messages of hate. They feel, and I personally agree, that they have some responsibility to keep hateful words inciting violence off of their platform. This is a warning, not a ban, and one they’re only rolling out to iOS users for now.

I mean, in the history of angry rants, when was the last time a “Hey, calm down, you shouldn’t say that” ever made the person less angry or less ranty? Almost never. In which case, the person will make their post anyway, leaving it up to masses to report it. At that time, Twitter can make the decision to suspend the account and tell the user to delete it, add a warning, or otherwise take action.

Every once in a while, though, someone may appreciate the note. If you’ve ever had a colleague read an email for “tone” in a thorny work situation, you know heeding a yellow flag is often the wisest decision. This warning notice gives users a chance to edit themselves. As a writer, I always appreciate a chance to edit myself. If they flag every damn curse word, though, that will get real annoying real fast. You’re not my mom, Twitter. You’re not the boss of me.

This isn’t your great granddaddies’ book burning. This is 2020. The internet giveth; the internet taketh away. It’s a crying shame that evil creeps in when we’re not looking. Speech has consequences. Users can’t edit tweets, so once it’s out there, it’s out there. Even if they delete a tweet within moments of posting, anyone can screenshot that baby and share it with the world. Part of me says, “Good, let the haters out themselves.”

Twitter has shown itself to be open to differences in opinion, encouraging freedom of expression, and has opened up a whole new line of communication for traditionally underrepresented populations. They are a private company, and their rules and policies are posted. What, you didn’t read the terms of use? Gasp!

It’s Twitter’s rodeo, after all. This warning gives users a quick, added heads up to posting something that will likely be reported/removed anyway. For better or worse, Twitter’s still leaving it up to users to post what they want and deal with the potential fallout. Hey, I have a great idea! How about we all be respectful of each other on the internet, and Twitter won’t have to come up with this kind of thing.

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Social Media

Yelp adds virtual services classification to help during COVID

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Yelp constantly adds new classifications for how to find a business to meet your needs, now because of COVID they have added virtual services.

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Yelp virtual services

Yelp is making efforts to accommodate businesses whose operations are adapting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Several new features will help businesses display updated services.

The company has added an information category titled virtual service offerings. Business can display service option such as classes, virtual consultations, performances, and tours. Yelpers can search for businesses based upon those offerings.

Yelp has already noticed trends where users are incorporating virtual services into their business profiles. In an report by TechCrunch, Yelp’s head of consumer product Akhil Kuduvalli said “With these new product updates, businesses of all types that are adapting and changing the way they operate will be able to better connect with their customers and potentially find new ones.”

Virtual services in categories like fitness, gyms, home services, real estate, and health are already increasing in popularity. Yelp intends to showcase businesses that are providing those services by creating new Collections.

Once business owners update their virtual service offerings on their Yelp for Business profiles, we will surface those updates to consumers through new call-to-action buttons, by updating the home screen and search results with links to groups of businesses offering these new virtual services, as well as surfacing them in other formats like Collections,” said Kudvalli.

Also in the works is a curbside pickup category for restaurants. Additionally, Yelp introduced a free customized banner for businesses to post updates on their profiles. About 224,000 businesses have used the banner so far.

Yelp hasn’t stopped there. It’s made its Connect feature (which allows businesses to share important updates to all Yelpers on their profile and their email subscribers) free to eligible local businesses as part of the Yelp’s commitment to waive $25 million in fees to support businesses in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

During COVID-19 businesses and consumers need all the help they can get, and thankfully Yelp is there to – help.

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