Opinions are like certain body parts: everybody has one. What’s changed is that the option to express those opinions in a manner that makes them widely available is now a routine part of business. I was reminded of this the other day as I read a piece on the comment manipulation going on over the recent Michael Jackson biography. It triggered a few thoughts about how those opinions can help or harm your business (pretty obvious, I know) but about the potential for something disturbing that seems to be happening more often.
(Photo credit: Q.Ce)
The book was not flattering to Mr. Jackson. His fan base took umbrage and organized to destroy the book’s reputation on Amazon by leaving a lot of one-star reviews. This, in turn, caused outrage among people who believe that the reviews ought to serve as honest unbiased guides for prospective buyers and not as forums for propaganda, either positive or negative. They left a lot of five-star reviews to counterbalance the negative posts. It’s fairly certain that most of the “reviewers” neither bought nor read the book. One can suppose that in Amazon’s case they could do something to fix this by requiring anyone who leaves a review to have bought the book through Amazon. They do, in fact, show “verified” purchasers within the review but you can’t screen them on that basis. In any event, this raises a larger issue.
What is to prevent an organized gang from holding your brand hostage? I can easily see a local business-owner getting a ransom note of sorts – pay us or we’ll destroy your reputation on Yelp and elsewhere. I’m well aware that the reverse is also true – there are “reputation management” companies that will go online and post lots of nice things under fake names for a fee. Maybe you’re not familiar with the term “astroturfing” but it’s the common practice in the political world of posting comments that are designed to hide the sponsor and appear as if they’re from a “civilian.” Pretty deplorable but a fact of life at this point.
I don’t really have an answer here. Comments on the screed are moderated so I can weed out the dozens of spam posts I get every week but that’s hard for big sites to do. Forced identity verification can be circumvented as the aforementioned examples show. If you’re using comments or reviews as a guide in your personal life you have to do the best you can to sniff out an agenda I guess. As a business or brand I don’t know how you counteract an organized effort against you other than to be transparent when these things happen and to hope your voice can be heard. Finally, if you’re a site that hosts this stuff, there is a certain amount of responsiblity on your shoulders to prevent the kind of organized activity we see in the Jackson case. I’m a big believer in the first amendment and everyone’s right to voice an honest opinon. However, what do we do when they’re neither honest nor an opinion but a scripted talking point advanced for money?
Thoughts? Solutions? Leave a comment (gulp).
As I was on the treadmill this morning I listened to a great live show from the Rolling Stones. It was recorded in October of 1994 on their Voodoo Lounge tour and it reminded me about why The Stones are one of the greatest bands ever. It also reminded me of a few business points.
A big part of the band’s signature sound is the interplay between the two main guitar players.
Photo: Ryan W. Woodland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Most bands have one player who is designated as the rhythm guitarist; the other one plays lead. When you listen to The Dead or other bands with multiple guitar players you can usually name the lead guitarist. While Bob Weir played the occasional solo, it’s pretty clear that Garcia was the lead.
Think about the Stones – who is the lead? I don’t think there is one, because of what Keith Richards called “the fine art of weaving.” That’s what he calls the blending of the two guitar parts into a seamless sound. It’s hard to tell which is playing the lead part and which is carrying the rhythm, and the correct answer to that will often change throughout the song. Which of course leads to the business points.
First, anyone who has ever heard the Stones’ sound can identify it immediately. Isn’t that sort of solid identification something all brands seek?
Second – while each of the guitar players in the band – Ron Wood and Keith Richards – can handle lead guitar well enough to front a band (which each has done – Wood with The Faces, Richards with numerous other projects), they sublimate their skill into “lesser” roles to create something bigger. How many co-workers, peers, and managers are willing to do be that selfless when the need is here?
Finally, they’re LIVE! No overdubs, no pre-recorded tracks. The band plays every note we hear and they deliver. This was 37 shows into a tour that would go on for almost another year yet they personified the old Joe DiMaggio quote. When asked why he played so hard, he replied: “Because there is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best.” How many of us can say the same each day?
The fine art of weaving and the work around it is becoming more rare these days. What are you doing to preserve it?