I mentioned before that a lot of what you think is spontaneous content on the Internet is, in fact, carefully groomed. We can no longer trust social media, chat rooms, discussion boards, or indeed, even blogs.
Why is this? Because you have no way of knowing whether "Stacy" really "Likes!" the new Batman movie, or whether Stacy is in fact a 'bot programed by an agency hired by the studio (or is a low-paid professional troll) who crawls the 'net, looking for mention of the new Batman movie, and then posting positive comments about it.
And if the Stacy-bot or Stacy-troll finds that someone is criticizing it, then they will ridicule that person with withering sarcasm, or nit-pick their arguments ("You are full of baloney! You said the movie was two hours of explosions and awkward dialog, when in fact the run time is actually 1 hours, 53 minutes. If you can't get your basic facts straight, how can we believe anything you say?").
Other companies will more directly groom your company's image, on your Facebook or other page. Liveworld is one of these, offering services with oblique names such as "Curation":
LiveWorld moderators provide the human touch by examining each piece of user content that comes into brand venues or posts to external venues across the web. From the vast amount of content posted every day, moderators can categorize the best, the worst, or any other category of activity that brands specify (e.g., product- or brand-specific, customer service, items for featuring, etc.). Such curation makes sense of the massive volume of customer input, and, with further analysis, provides brands with actionable insight based on the roll-up.
Whether dealing with material aggregated by our LiveWorld Curator tool, or user posts coming directly from the Facebook Wall or other community venues, moderators can tag individual items via our Advanced Power Moderation tools, selecting tags based on brand guidelines for content characterization. The tool then generates a specific insight tagging report that provides the basis for further analysis and insight.
If you look at their website, it is an interesting read, as it uses a lot of the happy-talk and mumbo-jumbo we used to hear during the dot-com boom. These folks seem to speak another language - sort of a passive-aggressive form of English, where they say a lot, without actually saying anything at all.
It is, needless to say, bizarre. We create these social media sites and online forums, and then companies spoof them - or pay someone to spoof them - so they their reputation appears better than it is.
Another such company, Reputation.com, advertises heavily on NPR. Reputation.com is directed towards individual people, and capitalizes on the age-old worry people have had since Junior High School - "what are people saying about me behind my back?"
Reputation, like Angie's List (also a big NPR advertiser) seems to be selling a load of horse shit, frankly:
Take control of your online reputation and own your search engine results with MyReputation. For as little as $11/month, you can ensure search results display the information you want others to see when searching for you on Google and other major search engines. Pick from three packages!
In addition, they offer:
Gain added protection from credit fraudsters, Internet stalkers, identity thieves, and nosy neighbors! MyPrivacy ensures your security and privacy. It's the Global Do Not Call List!Pay a monthly fee for getting on a Do Not Call registry? Give me a break!
The problem for all of these Internet "groomers" is that they are facing a daunting battle, particularly if you are trying to tamp down celebrity photos or groom the image of a truely bad company:
The company received publicity in the United States when it managed to remove death photographs of Nikki Catsouras from about 300 of some 400 Internet sites hosting them. The photos spread to new sites, and Fertik acknowledged their removal as "a virtually unwinnable battle".
(I saw those photos, and man, was she a mess - hit a toll both with a Porsche at 100 mph - usually only Paramedics have to see nightmares like that).
So maybe it is a tempest in a teapot. They can troll and bot all they want. They can groom and "curate" until the cows come home. If you have a good company, you don't have to worry much - in the long haul. But trying to suppress information on the Internet is nearly impossible to do, as the Catsouras photo case illustrates - and the idea that a company can fool all of us, all of the time, is just not workable.