by Greg Crandell
When you begin to increase your online presence - as a business, as a person, or as a business person - you begin to get the best of the Internet. You can keep in touch with people, you can promote your business in a more effective way, and you can share ideas. But at some point you can begin to see the dark side of the Internet.
No, I don't mean the To Catch a Predator dark side. I'm referring to attacks, negative reviews and criticism, and debasement. No one online is invulnerable to negative attacks and reviews. You can report harassment if it persists, provided you can offer proof of what's happened to someone at an administrative level. But what about people who sincerely have a problem with your product, service, or person?
Time magazine just talked about this in this article. With Web 2.0's focus on dialogue online, one has to expect that people will share bad opinions as readily, if not more fervently and frequently, than they will good ones. How do you stem this?
One method would be to pay attention to this feedback and act on it. Sites like Yelp.com make it easy to see how many users have something to say about your business and what, if anything, they think of the service you provide. As Rob mentioned in his Twitter post, many companies troll Twitter and other "sound-off" sites to get in touch with disgruntled customers. When they do, they respond and try to remedy the problem.
If the commentary is simply someone trying to be rude, it's best to ignore the situation. Blogs and message boards can be moderated, so just take each little snip as it comes.
And the person who is consistently harassing you or your business? What do you do when someone's out for blood?
- Look for IP addresses in messages. These addresses can be traced with a service such as WhoIs, which finds out where the traffic is coming from and who said user is.
- Save any malicious e-mails that come your way. Create a folder of these offenses (if they end up being numerous) and take your case to your ISP/the site management of the website you're using.
- As with any dispute, DO NOT attack the person/user in a retaliatory way. This will only further complicate things.
- For attacks that are too many to count, a service like Reputation Hawk might be the way to go. They can help the positive news about you stand out more than the flak.
- Remember, no one deserves harassment. Simply show the evidence, plead your case, and try to keep out of the mud...and away from your online adversary.