Online Reputation: Round 2 — Businesses Fight Back?

by Celeste Bishop

in Online Reputation Management

I’ve been focusing a lot lately on the potential damage businesses suffer when they don’t pay attention to their online reputation management Ps & Qs. Now, a new wrinkle in the evolution of this growing area of concern – Businesses Fighting Back.

Citizen Journalist may want to take a second before hitting “Send.” I’ll bet this one was sorry she did.

In a widely reported story, Horizon Realty sued a micro blogger using Twitter to make some rather unflattering comments about their property. In fact, they are reported to have sued Amanda Bonnen, a Chicago area resident, for this tweet: “You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it’s okay.”

The amount of the lawsuit: $50,000.

If you know anything at all about Twitter, you know that she was limited to 140 characters (this is called micro-blogging) AND that it is rather important to understand how many followers the person tweeting has. Followers being their theoretical “readers.” Horizon decided to take aggressive action to defend their reputation. Bad Move.

Why was this a Bad Move? Because Ms. Bonnen only had 12 followers on Twitter. I’m guessing at least a few were relatives. 🙂 In short… no one was paying attention. Their lawsuit, however, created a furor and drew national attention. Now everyone is wondering whether they want to EVER stay in one of Horizon’s properties.

Here’s the lesson for every business that have been maligned in Social Media (fairly or not):

  • Assess the potential damage before you act.
  • Don’t bring out the Howitzers to kill an Ant.

You and your Howitzer may make the issue become Front Page News when the reality was it was headed for the Obits.

Methinks that Horizon got all excited about the hype around Twitter’s growth and influence and incorrectly assumed that ALL of these folks were dialed into Ms. Bonnen. Hardly.

In fact, Ms. Bonnen had the audience equivalent of a group of people in a coffee shop… at a small table. Until Horizon gave her a Bully Pulpit, giving her a massive audience, creating a PR nightmare along the way.

What this does show is that businesses need to have a basic understanding of what is going on in Social Media so that they can take appropriate and measured proactive or reactive actions.

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