If you are in the UK, Canada, Italy and a Facebook user you can’t have helped but have noticed the phenomena of Spotted. This collection of (occasionally) moderated Facebook pages has created a huge following over the last few weeks with their mix of bitchy comments and local information.
The pages are the equivalent of the type of conversations you see in pubs across the land and are mostly harmless. However, just occasionally arguments flare that go well beyond the flame wars of previous internet phenomena. As the pages are local, there are occasions when names and even addresses have been published by the users of the page.
But what does this mean for businesses interacting in the social media space and even those businesses that do not?
1.) Potential for Naming Employees
Unlike in “flame wars” between followers of Captain Picard and Captain Kirk, the debate on Spotted pages relies on local information and knowledge to create interest in the page. This is fine if you are looking at historical pictures of the town centre and reminiscing about the former trading names of the local store.
However, Spotted discussions take a different path when it turns to |
personal abuse and in some cases accusations of serious crimes.
Let me give you a local example. The page for a town near me with around 12,000 residents has a following of more than 2000 people. This is around a sixth of the local population, engaged and actively reading the comments.
The potential threat to staff safety from those wrongly identified or harassed could cause serious business disruption. Alongside physical safety issues for buildings and staff, there is also a possibility of a “silent boycott” where members of the community, aware of the allegations, decide to avoid a person who has been highlighted as someone who should be shunned.
2.) Damage to Reputation of Local Businesses
A more direct threat to local businesses is the potential that such sites bring for damaging the reputation of local businesses. Saying the service was bad in one branch of a major supermarket chain would not have many repercussions outside of the local area and would eventually be counteracted by the millions of pounds of TV advertising for the chain that customers are routinely exposed to.
However, imagine that I owned another restaurant in the town and claimed that “Dave’s Fish and Chip Shop” had given me food poisoning. If I were a malicious business rival there is nothing to stop me claiming this. Given the anonymous nature of Spotted I would not be tracked.
Even if my complaint was genuine, I have increased the potential effects on the customer base of “Dave’s” from my close circle of friends who care about my health to the entire audience of the Spotted page. You can see why the social media revolution is now beginning to have impacts far beyond the macro scale.
This was not a problem in the early days of the interest-based internet, but now with the beginnings of hyper-local crowd sourced material and far higher numbers of online users, communities are beginning to once again resemble the physical world. We are going from global village back to a village.
3.) Damage to Your Social Media
The content of some Spotted pages brings online people who would not traditionally have been using social messaging. Certain pages within the network have highlighted a tendency to engage people with the site who are less polite than is customarily found online. There is also a problem with grammar and spelling in many of the posts made by members of the public which can have an negative impact on the perception of your brand should it appear on your social media presence.
Imagine you are running social media for a mid-market brand – such as my work with The Watch Hut – there is a possibility that the people who have newly engaged with the internet will shortly come over to your Facebook page. This is particularly likely if you are running competitions on your social media.
So how do you stop these problems from occurring and
damaging your brand? The answer is moderation.
One of the common problems seen by readers of Spotted is bad language. Swearing is completely over the line and not part of the brand image of any vaguely up-market retailer. On the pages I manage I have a range of blocked words. This includes all the common swear words and their poorly spelt alternatives.
Whilst you are in the settings module, consider banning other words. Words related to gambling, slimming, and enlargement of the male reproductive organ will considerably cut down the level of spam you receive.
It should go without saying, but if you get this abuse from a customer, then you need to go through your complaint procedures as normal, regardless of their threats to “expose” your service levels. By reacting professionally, you will likely diffuse the situation. The abusive customer will often look petty in the face of your politeness, improving your standing amongst the majority of the customer base.
Overall, your professional image is at stake. Keep an eye out for developments in your own neighbourhood and pounce on them to ensure negative feedback or harassment is not tolerated. A Google alert for your business name is a very good place to start.
- Facebook: have you been “Spotted”?
- Spotted on Facebook: a sexist and degrading form of cyber-bullying in disguise
- Should Spotted Facebook pages be removed?
- BEWARE – anything you do that’s funny, daft or dodgy could be Spotted for all to see
- Spreading to Canada: “Spotted” pages are a big hit on campuses