Can Competitors Harm Your Business With Impunity Online?




By Carl Weiss

Online Monitoring
Online Monitoring (Photo credit: Imooty)
Everybody knows the Internet marketing is just one big popularity contest.  He who has the most links and the best reviews wins, right?  Well what happens when the competition doesn't play fair?  How can unscrupulous competitors tarnish your
online reputation and what can you do about it?  In this article we will show you some of the black hat techniques used by underhanded competitors.  We will also talk about what recourse, if any, you have as a business owner. We will also talk about what you need to do in order to police your online reputation, as well as how you can fight back to keep your good name from being dragged through the mud.

So, you worked long and hard to build your reputation and your business.  Years of planning and tens of thousands of dollars have gone into building your brand.  You have achieved a level of trust among your customers that is beyond reproach.  Or so you think.  But all of that can be undone with the click of a mouse by a disgruntled employee, dissatisfied customer or by a wily competitor.  


Welcome to the Age of Digital Reputation Management


In today’s wired world everyone has become information junkies.  Whether you like it or not, all kinds of information about you and your business is floating around in
#bdi Social Reputation Management Conference N...
#bdi Social Reputation Management Conference NYC March 2010 (Photo credit: ShashiBellamkonda)
cyberspace waiting to be found by anyone perusing a search engine, a social net or any kind of portal that deals in reviews of businesses.  This means that anything derogatory about you, your business, an employee, or a product on your shelves is fair game.  Was a customer served a plate of linguini in your establishment that was beyond al dente?  That message can be broadcast on any number of review sites in real time. FourSquare, Facebook  and other social site provide check in functions and these customers often talk about how good or bad your product/service was.

Have You Been Charged With Any Kind of Crime?


Have you or one of your employees been charged with DUI?  That can make the rounds of the social nets with alarming speed.  You don't have to be found guilty to make the news or the social nets! Unlike in the past, where a local company run by shady operators or offering shoddy customer service could ply their trade with impunity, today the emperor wears no clothes.  This means that you can run, but you can’t hide in the information age.  This is a good thing for consumers and reputable businesses, since who wants to get tarred with someone else’s brush.

The Dark Side of Social Media and Ranking Sites


Near Dark (soundtrack)
Near Dark (soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
However, there is also a dark side to reputation management that all too many reputable businesses find out about the hard way.  Like it or not, it is all too easy for your reputation to be damaged or even destroyed by erroneous or malicious information.  

Does your business have a name similar to a competitor with a less than sterling reputation?  Then it is not impossible for a disgruntled customer to file a complaint on a review portal or social network that targets your business by mistake.  Does someone else in your town have the same name as you?  If they get into trouble with the law there is a high probability that your good name can be dragged through mud along with theirs.  Have you recently fired someone in your employ?  If they feel in the least way slighted by the termination, this can open an ugly can of worms that can take on a life of its own in cyberspace.

You are Presumed Guilty Until Proven Innocent


Innocent Until Caught 2: Presumed Guilty
Innocent Until Caught 2: Presumed Guilty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Think this can’t happen to you?  In a broadcast on "60-Minutes," a business woman had her credit destroyed by a mistake on her credit report that was clearly a case of mistaken identity.  Not only did the report list a different name than that of the responsible party, but the attorneys for the guilty party even provided a letter stating that the business woman was not responsible for the outstanding debts of the other party.  Yet even after all this the credit reporting agencies refused to remove the erroneous information and restore her good name until they were sued in federal court.  The 60-Minutes piece went onto inform the public that this was not the exception but the rule in the credit reporting industry where you are presumed guilty even if you have proof of your innocence. 

Complaints are Nearly Impossible to Remove


The online reputation industry operates under a similar set of rules.  Once a complaint has been filed, it is nearly impossible to redress, let alone remove.  This makes it exceedingly impossible for legitimate businesses to operate, since as the saying goes, “You can’t please all the people all the time.”  Trying to get a bad review removed from a social
IPT Complaints vs Complaints Upheld 2001-2008
IPT Complaints vs Complaints Upheld 2001-2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
net or review site can be all but impossible.   With many review sites and social nets there is no way for you to pick up the phone and call customer service because there is no customer service number.  Ever tried to call someone at Facebook?  There is no such number.  While you can place a call to Google, being able to get them to remedy or erase an error can take weeks or even months.  (It took nearly three months for our company to get Google to change the address of a client of ours who had moved his business from one county in Florida to another.)

Worse yet is the fact that an underhanded competitor can use this very loophole to attack your business.  Ever see an online complaint against a business that had been posted anonymously?  There is a high probability that it was posted by a competitor.  When it comes to mudslinging, politicians are not the only people who know how to play the game.  With the current lack of checks and balances on most social networks and review portals, it is all too easy for the competition to turn a system that was meant to protect the consumer into one that can be used to attack any business with impunity.

A New Industry is Born


The other salient fact is that with hundreds of places to dish dirt online, it is a Herculean task to police your reputation.  This has spawned an entire industry called reputation management that is tasked with monitoring and identifying posts about client businesses.  This also means yet another expense for participating businesses since these services charge anywhere from $99 per month to $999 per month depending upon the level of service selected.  Even paying top dollar does not guarantee that these firms can steam clean your online reputation, since they are forced to play by the same rules as everyone else. 

Born...
Born... (Photo credit: LiebeDich.)
All that you or I or any high-priced consultant can do to mitigate damage is try to contact the offending party to try to convince them to remove the negative post. If that does not work, you can try to get a large number of loyal customer to post a large number of positive reviews, to push the bad review off the first page.  Some unethical reputation management companies will create fake positive reviews. We don't recommend this because it can really backfire when your caught! The problem with reviews are that one bad review is more powerful than ten good ones.  

Watch Out for Attack and Hater Websites


Hater's Locker Room
Hater's Locker Room (Photo credit: pixel8 (RCRD))
The other problem is that most businesses do not have a protocol in place that encourages satisfied customers to post positive reviews.  Therefore even one complaint sticks out like a sore thumb.  None of these tactics will redress a choreographed smear campaign by a disgruntled former employee or underhanded competitor.  I have even seen entire websites commissioned by competitors that were designed to besmirch the reputation of a targeted business.  Try getting that turned off with anything short of a lawsuit and a court order. 

In a previous article called, “What’s in a Name, Reputation Management in the digital Age?"  Hector Cisneros, provide 13 ways you can protect your reputation. Read it and use these thirteen items to help managed and protect your reputation. In a prior article, we wrote about how to make Google like you. That article provides several rules a business needs to follow to keep its reputation clean which actually helps raise your search ranking. If you haven't listened to the BTR broadcast that goes with this article, check it out now.

The bottom line is, if you hope to protect your bottom line you as a business owner need to take reputation management seriously and do whatever it takes to defend your turf and protect your good name before one of these unwanted and undeserved attacks happens to your business and does irreparable harm.  

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.




Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio.com.

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A Borg in Every Boardroom - Cyber Augmentation for All




By Hector Cisneros


Have you noticed all the new cybernetic devices coming out lately? Prosthetic legs that allow you to run faster than normal, artificial eyes and ears that “see and hear”! Add to this the augmentation for our regular senses, our strength and our ability to use avatars for remote sensing plus do work. Do we have a brave new world just over the horizon or is it here already! If you’re wondering if there is an upgrade in your near future, read on and find out if there is a Borg in every Boardroom – Cyber Augmentation for all!

"Star Trek" Comes to Life
Star Trek Crew
Star Trek Crew (Photo credit: JoshBerglund19)
Being a big "Star Trek" fan, I am always amazed at all the wonderful inventions we see coming to life that were first envisioned in the popular TV and motion picture series. Recently my partner and I wrote about how cell phones can trace their history to the communicator from the first series and how 3D printing is the precursor to the creation of the replicator that also debuted on that series. But the most  interesting of all the "Star Trek" episodes was the Borg. It was frightening,  exciting  and predictive all at once. These episodes made the phrase “resistance is futile” and every day saying!


What augmentation would you like to have when you attend your next board meeting. Maybe a built-in recorder so you don’t have to take notes. A cranial implant that provides PowerPoint projections and lets you read emails and view videos will your in attendance. So what does all this have to do with internet marketing and online commerce? Plenty! These augmentations are taking place now. The medical industry and healthcare our our country's biggest expense, next to defense. 

Star Date 2013, Cyber Augmentation is in Full Bloom


Trekkie as a Borg
Trekkie as a Borg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The year is, Star Date 2013 and we already have hundreds of cybernetic augmentations being peddled online. One of the world’s largest corporation (Google) is spearheading a new means of cybernetic communications called Glass. Private citizens (even teenagers) are building their own cybernetic limb replacements with a 3D printer. Hearing implants are common place. Rush Limbaugh salvaged his radio career by having his hearing restored with a cochlear implant several years ago. Cybernetic eyes are already in experimental use. We have had pacemakers to control heart function for many years. Artificial Hearts have been in use for a number of years and are used to bridge the gap between transplant surgeries. We regularly replace joints (knees, hips, shoulder etc.…, tendons, bones, teeth, skin, hair and so on. We have devised implants to stimulate parts of the brain to control epilepsy, hunger, and even sex drive. The military is already using many types of remote sensing, enhance body defences and augmented battle weapons to help soldiers survive the battles.

Amazing and True
Some of the most amazing new comers to cyber augmentation are: computer controlled prosthetic limbs that help people to walk with cybernetic legs (check out ReWalk, developed and designed in Israel) or pick up objects with cybernetic arms and hands, all controlled by the wearer's own muscle movements and thoughts. Scientist are even working on creating a cloaking device to make the wearer invisible.



Google Glass and Future Health 25824
Google Glass and Future Health 25824 (Photo credit: tedeytan)
Right now most of the cybernetic ear implants are designed to help people regain hearing loss. But hearing enhancement devices have been used by hunters and soldiers for many years. The next step will be implanting augmented hearing that’s permanently in your head. 


Cybernetic eyes are on their way. We have been using many forms of vision enhancement for years. We have all kinds of telescopes, microscopes, binoculars, glasses, light filtering devices, night vision goggles and cameras. Now Google has married a computer to many of those devices and created Google Glass, a wearable computer that augments vision,  memory and thought,  just like the computer at your desk. We use computers as extensions of our mind and bodies. They allow us to reach out and touch the world, through the use of internet, software and recorded content. It won’t be long before people start implanting cybernetic eye enhancements (like Jordie had in Star Trek) to do the same thing.


Here is a list of interesting articles covering many amazing cybernetic devices in use today:



The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL).
The Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL). (Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery)
'Organ-on-a-chip' microdevices to evaluate therapies for lethal radiation exposure (8/14/2013) -These tiny implants are used to test various drugs for radiation sickness. Robotic intubation prototype crawls to the lungs in difficult situations (8/11/2013) - This device is used to intubate the patient's lung to help reduce injury.  Heart pump with behind-the-ear power connector (8/9/2013) - This device will allow the wearer to stimulate the heart without adding to potential infection of the abdomen.  A 3D printed cybernetic ear that even a transhumanist would love  -A 3D printer replacement ear that works!   This is what it’s like to shake hands with the future - Imagine a prosthetic arm and hand that is close in function to a human hand. A Brain Implant That Treats Severe Eating Disorders - For those who have trouble dieting,  an implant that curbs your appetite! A Battery That Allows Electronics and Implants To Stretch Along With It - Imagine wearing a flexible power supply that can keep your devices powered up for a week. Now imagine one that’s implanted and rechargeable! Amputee To Get An Artificial Hand That Can Experience the Feeling of… This hand looks like it’s right out of science fiction. Put some skin on it and you have a real hand. 


In Carl Weiss’s article,  Praise the Borg and Pass the Ammunition,  he wrote about many of the fascinating inventions  that have mimicked those of the Star Trek series. This article continues that voyage. To take us where no man has gone before, except for the fact that we are already following in the footsteps of "Star Trek." 

Incidentally, if you'd like to follow one of our client's blogs that features innovative medical devices (implants, prosthetics, diagnostic, nanotechnology, etc.) check out the monthly series "Fascinating, Captain!" on MedicalSocialNetworkNews

This article discussed how science fiction has ushered in science fact. How many of the artificial cybernetic devices we dreamt of in the '60s are now in use every day. I have discussed how the human race is embracing the use of cybernetic eyes, ears, limbs and organs. As a race, we have been enhancing our senses with external devices for many years. Soon we will be enhancing our biological senses to take humankind to a completely new level. Imagine walking into a board room and never having to take notes because your cybernetic implants are recording it all. Imagine never getting tired when you go for a walk on your cybernetic legs. Imagine all the lives that will be saved with the cybernetic implants of the future. If you haven't listened to the BTR broadcast that goes with this article, check it out now. I hope you have enjoyed this article on cyber augmentation. If you liked the article pass it onto your friends. If you have a comment please enter them below.  

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 



Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”



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