In this short blog, we discuss advice given to a client who wanted to know about the possibility of removing content that was damaging to their online reputation from social media outlets. Our position was unequivocal, in that this is incredibly difficult and very risky.
First off, we felt obliged to discuss something known as The Streisand Effect – a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information, often via the Internet. Wikipedia
If the objective of posters on social media, such as Twitter or forums, is to malign/ defame their targets, then actions by the client to seek to have these posts formally removed, with the intention that the posts quietly disappear from the Internet could in fact have the opposite effect. This is because when posters feel that they have ‘got the client’s attention’ to the extent that they notice posts have been removed, then they can feel emboldened and double down on their efforts to further malign the client. Paradoxically, evidence that attempts are being made to formally remove content can, by motivated parties, be fed into the narrative of a tacit admission of fault or guilt by the client.
This phenomena, especially as it pertains to social media, is an area that is deeply problematic from the point of view of online reputation management (ORM). That being the interplay between static content (such as posts on new websites etc.) versus dynamic user-generated content. Where static content is that of posts in news publications, these can be targeted in a planned ORM campaign and successfully reduce the visibility of a majority of potentially offensive links.
However, dynamic content, such as that posted on social media and forum posts, is a much more difficult type of ORM campaign, as we must tread a path between avoiding the Streisand Effect and a sustained and resource intensive ‘whack-a-mole’ campaign.
To be clear, responding to a social media campaign means constant monitoring and then only responding to commentary with a contrarian view that seeks to convince other viewers of malign posts that ‘there is another side to the story’. This countering activity can itself backfire as the campaign manager may be accused of being a stooge or shill. This is a highly risky strategy and guarantees nothing.
If another online reputation management consultancy is advising that they can do something radically different, then we would humbly advise you to be curious but nevertheless ask further questions about their approach.
As concluded in a previous blog, “The above pointers should help you decide whether you should resort to an online reputation management consultant when things start to go sideways – however, it’s also important to consider if the investment is truly worthwhile.”