Cyber trolling or bullying is no longer restricted to online chat rooms and message boards. The fact that a substantial amount of information about businesses and individuals is available through an easy search, has its own implications. As a result of this fact, every person who uses the internet must be aware about cyber crimes and cyber bullying. It is crucial to take thoughtful and preventive measures so that you are not prey to cyber crimes that can prove to be destructive for your business and personal image.
Cyberbullying is usually carried out on the internet and on the digital devices like computers and smart phones. It comprises of a wide range of strategies from sending out aggressive messages to someone or creating bad posts about them online to sharing someone’s personal information through a public forum.
In light of the fact that information is easily accessible through the world wide web, in a way this is a good thing but it has its own repercussions as well. In case this information becomes accessible to the people with malicious intent, it can be compromised and used in a wrong way.
Cyberbullying can be a common threat to everyone who knows internet. Especially if you have left a breadcrumb trail that identifies you online.
It is important for you to be aware of a simple fact that if you share your information publically on the internet, your information is vulnerable to getting compromised. Anyone can see your information and use it against you and this is when cyberbullying happens.
The most prominent forms of cyberbullying include the following:
- Public Sharing
- Cancel Culture
The term Doxxing refers to the activity of gathering documents or ‘docs’ about some individual with the intention of using the document for malicious purposes. Cyber criminals look for the documents through public records and social media websites, they accumulate data, social media content like posts and pictures along with collecting more private information that is found online like voter registration information, important financial documents, home address and information about your friends and family.
People into such malicious activities put together various pieces of content and publish it online, this piece of data becomes a public record and you have no control over it.
The doxxing method is usually used for the ordinary people. At times it is just the hackers who want to create trouble for some people or strangers but quite frequently it can be done by someone who is present in the same online community. The weapon of every hacker is compromising the personal data.
Instances of how the information can be compromised include general online harassment, hacking someone’s email accounts or social media accounts or posting fake news through someone’s account.
Doxxing is a frequently used tactic for many malicious activities.
One of the biggest positive aspects of the internet is that it is a great platform for exposing bad people who cannot be otherwise exposed. Social media websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are platforms for ordinary people to went out their grievances.
Every news or update often goes around in this cycle : Someone does something bad or says something bad , its tweeted about by various people, this tweet is re-tweeted by thousands of other people who relate to the tweet, this tweet is posted by many blogs and other media outlets, there is a continues outraged response for the tweet and then finally everyone forgets about it.
Public shaming can have exorbitant consequences and they can cost people their life, their jobs and much more.
The main issue with public shaming is that the response to particular news or something said by someone can get extremely out of proportion. At times the people who are targeted are just the ordinary people who had a lapse in their judgment; and in many situations just an apology is not sufficient.
A cancel culture is a phenomenon where the general public comes to a conclusion that some person (who is generally a public figure) is cancelled. This goes on to say that this group of people will no longer support that public figure in any ways.
The issue with the cancelling culture is that no opportunity is provided for learning from your mistakes and moving on. There is no place for humans for being humans. This holds true for everyone. When it comes to public shaming and cancel culture, anybody can be targeted.
It is true that the internet is a great platform for holding people responsible, however it is not one of the most forgiving places. Even if some person is sorry for the unfortunate statement made on any of the prominent social media channels years ago, even if that person has changed, the internet audience doesn’t care.
The cultural standards and norms have been changing at a fast pace. Unfortunately, it can bring up many of the past transgressions that are available online even if they were perfectly valid and reasonable at the time when they were made. Apologizing and taking responsibility is one of the prominent ways to react in such a situation but to state the fact; that isn’t sufficient at times.
If you are operating a small business with a not so good social media history, you will have to be worried about this fact as it can go against you.
What’s The Solution?
Now that you have a fair idea about how bad cyberbullying can get, what can you do for protecting yourself from such situations? If you want to keep your private information safe and confidential, and protect it from becoming a tool that becomes destructive, you have to proactively monitor your online reputation.
Online reputation management is a way of strategically portraying how a business or a person is perceived online. Ensuring a good online reputation is important for both businesses and individual professionals. However in light of the scope of the internet, content monitoring is required for maintaining a good online reputation.
Here are some important sections that you need to pay attention to for online reputation management:
- Implementing the necessary internet security precautions.
- Controlling the public information that is available about you online.
- Being thoughtful while interacting with people, customers and reviewers.
Online Reputation Management And Social Security
Whatever you do online, you need to ensure that you are safe and secure, for that you need to concentrate on the following aspects:
Did you have a look at your social media privacy settings lately? Do you really have an idea what can be seen by the general public when it comes to your information on the social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? It is important to ensure that you have only approved your friends and followers to see your posts and your information.
If you have been using Facebook and Twitter since a very long time, it will be a tedious task to go through the posts one by one for deleting them. Thankfully, you can make use of apps for deleting your social media posts. Deleting your old social media posts might not be a quick process but if you use an app for doing it, it will save you a lot of time.
In order to delete your old posts and comments on Facebook, you can make use of the Social Book Post Manager extension if you are using Google Chrome. This extension helps you to hide, batch delete or unlike posts or items through your previous activity log. You can filter the posts by assigning them a specific date and you can even look for posts that contain any specific term.
If you wish to delete your old tweets on Twitter, you can use the Cardigan app. You can also use the Social Book Post Manager extension for filtering and sorting the tweets on the basis of some specific criteria like data or content. You can then bulk delete the tweets that you wish to delete or you can prefer to delete more selectively.
If you have been posting on Twitter aggressively, you can consider using an auto-delete tool for getting your job done faster, you can use the app – Tweet Delete. Through this app you will be able to delete the tweets that are older than a particular time period that you specify, these tweets will get deleted automatically.
Related : Tools To Manage Social Media Channels
Use A VPN
A VPN is considered to be a safe platform for posting online and you can make sure that you have taken all the security measures while posting though a VPN. A VPN or a Virtual Private Network ensures that your private data is kept confidential by hiding the information that is transferred every time you are online. When you carry out your online activities through a VPN, your data is completely unreadable until it is delivered to the final destination. A VPN hides your IP and completely encrypts your online traffic. It is safe to say that when you work with a VPN, it is almost impossible to track your digital footprints on the internet.
Wi-Fi is everywhere now days and if you are availing a free Wi-Fi, you might have to face its repercussions as well. However if you work on a free Wi-Fi but through a VPN, all your online connections will be secured. A VPN will hide all your information online whether you are using the social media websites or entering your critical information like debit or credit card details or personal information on any website.
Related : 5 Best And Free VPN Services
You must use an anti-virus program on your personal computer, this is mandatory! By using an anti-virus program, your PC will be protected from viruses and malware. You can easily get one installed on your PC.
Refrain From Using Your Personal Email Address Everywhere
Do not use your personal email ID everywhere you create an account unless it is strictly for personal or business use. If you are registering on various websites which is not related to your work like forums or message boards or any other websites, you must refrain from using any parameter that identifies you. This especially holds true if your name is registered for your email address. You must consider having alternate email IDs for all your online activities.
If you are doing any activity of a delicate nature on the internet, it is recommended to create an alternate email address through any private email service instead of using your personal or business email address.
Best Practices For Passwords And Usernames
Every password for each of your account should be a strong and complicated one. This is a simple act to do but it has huge effects on your online stature. It is important to have unique passwords for all the websites that you have an account on.
Ideally your password should be a combination of uncommon nouns, numbers and special characters which makes it difficult for the hackers to crack. You can make use of a computer generated password as well.
When it comes to having strong passwords, no one talks about having diverse usernames. Your username is as important as your password. If you are active on various online forums and websites, having various different usernames will protect you from your identity getting easily revealed.
Completely avoid the combination of having the same username and password, it makes you a lot more vulnerable.
Another crucial point is avoiding logging into the third party websites through authorization from Facebook, Twitter or Google. It is very tempting to quickly login through a social media website that you have already created an account on. Creating a new login on every website can take a little more time than registering from a third party website but it is the logical thing to do. Moreover it is also easy for the hackers to easily get to your information like your email address and all the social media logins that are connected with that email address.
The ideal security and personal management is equally important when it comes to maintaining the online reputation of your business. You as an individual represent your business, therefore you wouldn’t want any critical information about you to be revealed and go against you.
Here are a few more additional factors that you should consider for protecting your business reputation online:
Conduct A Google Search
When you perform a quick Google search about your website, you will be able to see all the information about the online public perception of your business. If you don’t like the information that is displayed about your business, then there are many ways through which you can approach it:
- You can get in touch with the websites that feature negative information about your business. If some person has encountered any type of difficulty in dealing with your company, you can offer them a way to mend the problem or offer them a better solution and then you can request them to provide an improvised review. This approach might not always work for you but you can attempt it.
- Create and post content that is optimized for SEO through which you can effectively outrank any kind of negative content that is posted before. This approach includes creating new content and updating the content on your website pages and blog regularly along with posting useful and crucial information on all the social media channels as well.
- Take the necessary steps to improvise the customer service further and keep encouraging your customers to post reviews about your business.
To keep a watch on what people are posting about your business in real time, you can enable Google Alerts for your business. This will keep you updated about the public opinion and you will be in a better position to improvise and correct the negative reviews. When you set up a Google Alert, you are directly notified about the new content posted online about your business so that you don’t miss out on time when it comes to reacting to the negative reviews and providing the right solutions in time.
Verify Your Business And Claim Your Business On Google And Other Social Channels
This is a very obvious point that you should be aware of. When you claim your business in Google, you get the ownership about it and if you don’t claim your business yourself, somebody else can! And then that person can start sending out misinformation about your business. You must take control of your business listing as soon as possible so that your customers get authentic information about your business always.
It is also crucial to have verified business pages across all the popular social networking websites and search engines in order to make sure that your customers and new visitors have access to the right information.
Interact With Your Customers On Social Media Websites
Interact with all your customers on the social media websites and be very honest about the information that you are giving out. Even if you have to write about a delay or an error, authenticity is something that people really appreciate. In fact the authenticity of the information given out by you becomes a deciding factor of whether your company will be considered for future purchases or services or not.
The more you interact with people on the social media websites, the stronger your profiles will be. Interacting with your customers on the social media websites and forums will not just make your customers happy but it will also improve your search engine optimization and the online stature of your brand and this further has a great positive impact on your brand.
How To Respond To The Online Reviews Posted About Your Business?
Responding To The Positive Reviews
- Create a personalized response for all the good reviews; avoid posting the same response everywhere. Consider writing a few more words instead of just writing a plain ‘thank you’. Let your appreciation be known by writing your response about some point mentioned in the review message.
- Invite your customers back again. Recommend a similar product or service that they might be interested in. You can even offer them a small discount. Basically, you need to take up this opportunity to directly market your brand to your customer base.
- If possible, add some keywords in your response but make sure that your sentences look absolutely authentic.
Responding To The Negative Reviews
- Apologize and keep your response precise. No matter what is the review, never take the defensive side. Remember that you want to convey to your customer that you can work on things and improvise them. Don’t deny anything and don’t make excuses.
- Encourage them to get in touch with your customer service team through call, email or chat so that they can get an instant solution. This is an important step as you wouldn’t want the issues of your customer being discussed in a public forum and at the same time you must convey that you care about your customer’s needs and value their reviews.
- If you think that all your attempts are failing and if you think that some reviews are outrageous, then in this case you can submit a legal request to Google. However you need to be very sure about the legal implications of taking this step.
What Can You Do If Someone Tries To Harm Your Online Reputation?
This article is all about implementing the important precautionary measures for protecting your online reputation as a business or as an individual. A very important point that you need to take into consideration is that it is very difficult for the trolls to defame you when they have access to very little information about you.
Unfortunately, we have to live with the fact that even if your online reputation is completely clean and no one can point fingers at it, even then, people who have an aim of attacking you and your business will still find ways to discredit you. This is surely an arduous and complicated situation!
If you come across defamatory articles that endanger your online business reputation greatly, the best way to address this problem is by directly contacting the host websites. You must inform them that the content on their website comprises of deceitful information about you that can harm your business reputation. You can request them to edit the content or take it down entirely.
Be very careful when you take to the social media websites for expressing your outrage, especially if it’s about just one article. It’s not really bad to ignore a little bit of negativity about you as an individual or your business. You wouldn’t want to end up drawing a lot of attention to it. You need to counter any online statement made about you when it gets too aggressive and tries to damage your image.
Be in a continuous process of posting positive content about you and your business as that will overpower the negative content in the search engines. Focus on building a relationship with the customers by responding to all the good and bad reviews. Keep a watch over all your online security practices and ensure that your personal information is always safe. Know that in today’s world where everyone is going online, your online reputation is a very important thing and you must implement the right measures to develop a remarkable one! Having said that, it is also true that there is no harm in speaking your mind and there is no need to be very harsh with yourself, all you have to do is seize the possibilities of your information getting misused.