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The power In your pocket – social media has changed the world, don’t let it damage your business

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - they connect us to friends old and new and give our businesses access to customers and markets we couldn’t have dreamed possible just a handful of years ago.

I’m of the generation where our maths teachers told us to put our calculators away (solar powered Casio, anyone?), as we wouldn’t be carrying them everywhere in our pockets when we were “grown ups”.

I’m glad to say that they have been proved wrong, and besides calculators the smart phones in our pockets are used for a whole range of activities. If there are certain things we can’t do right now, you can bet that there is a clever somebody out there developing a new app to fill that gap.

When social media goes bad

Tech doesn’t stand still. It can help build and support a business. But while it’s used creatively by most people, it’s sometimes abused by others. As such, it has the power to harm a business and the people who run it.

A handful of bad reviews on Facebook, Google+ or TripAdvisor can be damaging. But one or two malicious reviews can be devastating. We often see examples of competitors posting false and misleading reviews designed to damage and stifle competition.

Reviews can be more or less instantaneous and while the owners of those sites say they have vetting procedures in place to prevent or take down malicious reviews, the numbers just don’t stack up.

There are nearly 2 billion active Facebook users. The Guardian has recently run a series of articles highlighting internal procedures for the moderators at Facebook – it’s a losing battle. Moderators report being overwhelmed and having just 10 seconds to decide whether to delete each flagged post.

TripAdvisor states on its website that it relies on an automated flag system and the “Trip Advisor Community” to review and delete malicious posts.

In other words, if you or your business are the subject of a malicious post or an unfair review, you’re pretty much on your own. The website is unlikely to identify and remove the post as malicious. The post will then remain on the website for others to read and form their opinions about your business.

Taking action

However, there are a number of practical things you can do to protect your reputation and that of your business.

Be vigilant – keep an eye on what people are posting about your business. This can be time consuming, but there are businesses and products out there which can give you timely reports and flag negative posts, which you can address either directly by responding on the website or taking further action.

Be quick – reviews can be instantaneous and then reposted and shared quickly. Before you know it a post can go viral. A solicitor can email an appropriate “Take Down” letter to a website almost as soon as they are instructed. If you need to take legal action to prevent further damage, the earlier the better. The law around defamation was written and developed with newspapers and broadcast media in mind, but it still expects those with complaints to act quickly. A solicitor can advise you on the best way to tackle those who have harmed your reputation.

Be vocal – if your business has suffered due to a malicious review then make sure that you take swift and appropriate legal action and let the world know about it. If you have a reputation for standing up to “keyboard warriors” to protect your brand and reputation then it stands to reason that others will be unlikely to do the same when they know that you are likely to take action.

John Watkins

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