How A 13 Year Old Girl Accidentally Outwitted A $5-Billion Government Department

  • Posted on: 27 May 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

If you do not establish your online presence, details and branding then someone else may take over your message. Google ties their mapping to their search system. Places are named and given profiles. Because these are Google profiles, they score very well in Google. When you search for a place, there is good chance that the Google Places profile will appear on the right side of the search results. If you take ownership of that information, you have some measure of control over its content. If you do not. Anyone can control your online presence. Even a young girl.

A great quote I live by with search engine optimization and online interactions: “Just because you don’t talk about yourself online, doesn’t mean that others do not.” Some organizations work in contentious market sectors (banking, health services, government, oil & gas, etc.) and they are prone to troll attacks. They will sometimes put their head into the sand and hope that it will all go away. It doesn’t.

In one example, an organization had some motility issues. They could not cope with adding online monitoring to their dynamic. They were so hopelessly outgunned by the reality of the situation they couldn’t even train people to get conversant in the technology.

Become Digitally Literate

People think that to be digitally literate, one has to submerge into the depths of Internet culture. That’s like saying that you have to become a race car driver to learn how to drive. Digital literacy is about understanding privacy, understanding reach, understanding how to gain access and how to take control of your own online presence-- even profiles owned by other organizations like Google and Yelp.

The flip side of digital literacy is digital ignorance that sometimes manifests as digital superstition. That can very quickly lead to the digital equivalent of book burning as panicked organizations toss civil rights out the window and enforce their will on others; they sic the lawyers on people who are actually elevating their brand. Worst of all, digital superstition is imprecise. I have seen organizations in full meltdown over one bitchy Yelp review. In one case, a school ordered their student to hand over their online access so that content could be destroyed to change the nature of one online review. In the end, the school was left with an embarrassing invasion of privacy fiasco; but worse than that, anyone who wanted to post a negative review of a school still had free license to do so and all the schools were sitting ducks. Vandals, disgruntled students, angry parents, teachers in the midst of a labour dispute: all of them could take pot shots at any of the schools and the schools were unable to react because they did not have the digital literacy required to make them resistant. A $5-billion system could fall to the death of a 1000 cuts (or a 1000 cutting reviews). Imagine the nightmare scenario of your digital presence being used as a launch point for angry exposes, spiteful remarks and over sharing.

Resistance Is Not Futile

Some quick ways that an organization can participate, interact and defend itself online:

Master Google Places

Okay: I just scared you off with “Master” didn’t I? Come back. Mastery has three steps: Google yourself, Register, and Monitor.

First off: Google your online presence. See what people are saying. Very important sub-point. Don’t be logged into Google when you use Google in this way. Google will tailor results for you. I have had clients who are thrilled that I got them to first couple slots in Google in a few days, only for me to bring them to Earth. Google tries to show you the best results for you.

If you see a map reference to the right side, it means that Google has a Maps and a Places reference for you. This link will walk you through the process. Be advised: it’s not instantaneous. Google will send a postcard with verification information; they will send it by mail to your street address which takes time. When you get a Google Places profile, flesh it out. Link to your own information. Please take the time to provide profile photos and branding of your choosing. Google is visual. If you don’t supply some sort of a picture, any picture accompanying a review may be used instead. In other words, your spokesman could be a young girl, a disgruntled client, or a complete stranger, if you don’t take control.

Check back to your account to monitor the reviews. In addition, sign up for Google Alerts.

Get Google Alerts

Google has a system to report news as it happens: Google Alerts.
“As it happens” may be a little too bold-- sometimes the information is up to the minute. Sometimes it’s a week or two after the fact. Regardless, it’s an agent that acts on your behalf. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries. Enter a search query you wish to monitor. You will see a preview of the type of results you'll receive.

Get A Twitter Account

Journalists and social media types may tell you that Twitter is changing the planet. It’s more the case that Twitter is getting direct access to old media and feeding their hunger for news and information. There are 225 million active Twitter users. I have six accounts myself for my various things. Translation: seven billion people plus many spammers plus additional accounts, it means that maybe one in fifty people have a Twitter account. That’s rarefied. Because newshounds have fixated on Twitter, it’s a mainline of news from people who say things piped into mass media. That can pack a lot of jeopardy for you if you don’t have a social media presence that includes the use and monitoring of Twitter. Having a Twitter account means that you can ride the conversation. You can search via Twitter for threads that concern you and your organization even without an account, but you can only weigh in when you log in.

Get A Facebook Account

The walled garden of Facebook has developed some gaps in the verge. A couple years ago, Facebook rolled out “Open Graph” to better connect users to each other. They also have the privacy setting cranked to “lax” by default. It means that people who are not good at closing off privacy loopholes and who are also squeaky wheels can be monitored. As a Facebook user, you can monitor the conversations that appear in public. As a Facebook user, you can message some of the fellow users (esp. the squeaky wheels) and engage them.

Last updated date

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - 14:39