Despite the fact that social media is an integral part of the marketing mix for many companies today, plenty of business owners still hesitate because of concerns about what could go wrong.
Clarissa Windham-Bradstock, chief operating officer of AnyLabTestNow, discovered firsthand just how bad it could get, she told attendees of FranCamp2012, held May 4 in Atlanta.
A hostile former franchisee and vendor whose services Any Lab Test Now had decided to stop using began cyber-stalking and cyber-harassing Windham-Bradstock in an apparent attempt to make her and the company look bad. The man began by posting negative comments about her and Any Lab Test Now on an open Internet forum.
Next, friends and colleagues started getting friend requests from a Facebook profile bearing the same picture as Windham-Bradstock’s, but with a slightly different name. The fake profile included her home address and children’s names as well as pictures of the children themselves.
Windham-Bradstock said she thought she could keep ahead of the perpetrator by changing her profile picture to distinguish her real profile from the fake one, but he kept getting the new picture and updating the fake profile to keep it as similar to the real one as possible.
The perpetrator then used the fake profile to say bad things about her, Any Lab Test Now and some of its franchisees, said Windham-Bradstock. He also implied she had inappropriate relationships with other company executives. Later he put up another fake Facebook profile under a different name.
People asked Windham-Bradstock why she didn’t just take down her own Facebook profile and get offline entirely. If she had turned off her real profile, she would have left the harasser as the only image of herself online, Windham-Bradstock replied. That would have let him win and would have left her looking bad to the world.
Windham-Bradstock advised taking the following steps if you become the victim of social-media harassment.
● Save screenshots of everything to use as evidence.
● Notify social media outlets via the channel that they suggest that someone is using your name inappropriately.
● Use the social media channels to connect with decision makers.
● File a report with the police district where your home is located and include all documentation of the cyberharassment or cyberstalking.
● If you have any evidence of who the perpetrator is, file for a restraining order because you don’t know when that person might take the harassment offline.
● File a case with the FBI. They will refer you back to the local jurisdiction, said Windham-Bradstock, but it’s still worth it to get it on the record.