Google Releases Real-Time Reputation Problem

google errorAs I mentioned yesterday, Google released quite a bit of news covering a wide variety of areas. One of the larger headlines revolved around their new effort to integrate real-time search into the search results to help Google compete with Bing’s Twitter deal and, of course, Twitter itself. With real-time search, Google would be pulling live updates from news, blogs, Yahoo Answers, Twitter, etc, and placing them in the results as a live stream to tell you ‘what’s happening right now’.

Google put together a video to illustrate how real-time search was supposed to work.

In theory, the idea of inserting live feeds in the search results is pretty neat. I’m sure Google anticipated it as a good thing. An exciting thing. However, yesterday Rae Hoffman, my partner at Outspoken Media, underscored just how dangerous putting real-time results directly into the SERPs can be – claiming it opened the door to real-time spam and far more.

I recommend reading Rae’s post to get a full understanding of how Google’s current implementation opens Pandora’s Box to widespread spam and even dangerous behavior that may affect your children. However, I wanted to talk about it from a brand and reputation management perspective.

If you were the type of business that was slow to monitor what people were saying about you, you’re probably just got far worse.

Imagine that tomorrow a customer has a bad experience with you. Frustrated, John Doe heads to Twitter and whips out a slew of libelous statements. Then, a few hours later, someone does a search for your brand trying to locate your street address. They first they see isn’t your Web site or Google Local listing. It’s the live stream of tweets telling the world that you’re a liar and a crook. Maybe it even shows other people joining in and doing the same. It’s throwing the conversation that took place on Twitter and putting right out into center court so that it’s impossible to miss. It’s no longer a blog entry that can be pushed down or a bad review that can be rectified. It’s gossip sitting at the top of your search results.

As a business owner, what do you do to combat that?

You need to learn to listen faster. That means using tools like Twitter Search, Monitter, and Social Mention to monitor the conversation in real-time instead of simply watching it week by week. It also means getting more involved with your community to ward off these types of “attacks”.

We’re only a few days into Google’s real-time search endeavor so it’s my hope that they’re going find a way to perfect the very sloppy system they’ve unleashed to the masses. As it stands, it’s simply dangerous. Dangerous to business owners, to searchers, and even to parents who all just lost control of what’s streaming through their search results.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

13 Reactions
  1. i honestly love this idea! i dont twitter, i cant see the usefulness of hoping to get a reply from a stranger to a question. (maybe i just dont understand the concept of it all) but if it can pull the info from someones twitter around the would. and its what im looking for, i say why not !

  2. I agree with you 100% Lisa, this is a potential online reputation massacre. You can try your hardest to keep all your customers happy, but eventually you’ll have an irrational customer who believes it is their mission to alert the entire world about your company’s [insert negative comment here]. All you can do at that point is make sure that your side of the story is being heard and hope that people can see through the bull.

    And I would anticipate that in 2010 we’ll see lawsuits over negative comments showing on these new search results.

  3. I think that one client screaming is not a bad deal as long as he is heard. The new game is reputation management. if you as a business are doing things right this should be any easy job. If not this is where the slope can become steep.

    one or two bad reports can be drowned out by tons more good reviews. With this said you should know where you stand as a person who owns a business your followers will set the bad reviews fall without notice.

  4. Thanks for pointing this out Lisa,
    I do worry about small business owners who right now are short of both time and money. The thought of having to keep up to speed on an hour by hour with the twitter that’s going on could be really daunting.
    I guess the possibility of a customer ‘telling all’ about having a bad experience with you just got a quantum leverage amplifier BUT it makes it even more important to WOW your customers because they’re just as likely to tell the world about a good experience as a bad one.

  5. Thanks for the article Lisa, yes it creates a reputation management issue for brands, products, personal names…and only lawyers win when lawsuits get involved…

    …will be interesting to see how this plays out in 2010. All the more reason for any company to do reputation management and have a social media plan in place.

    Cheers, Maria Gudelis

  6. Melinda | WAHM Biz Builder

    It’s hard enough to sort through all the listings on google now (previously?) now this is added it’s going to put even more clutter there.

    It would be great if Google had a ‘Live Feed’ option on the search that you can turn off as a preference, and that parental controls could restrict.

  7. As I responded to @AJKeen @LeWeb, realtime is ridiculous.

    But what is even MORE ridiculous, is the Google says they’re offering a realtime search engine when in fact they are NOT.

    I have tested Google’s engine and have found that the results are in fact censored (see e.g. ).

    A user who searches an innocuous search phrase will not see the realtime results for that innocuous topic, but rather a filtered list of results approved by Google engineers.

    The best thing Google could do to save face would be to stop digging, get out of the hole and cover it up. True, that isn’t a very good result either, but right now they’ve got a severe case of “foot in your mouth” — and the best result is probably to simply acknowledge is that they had a ridiculous idea.

    🙂 nmw

  8. Google has tried for a long time to bring “costumer” input into the search results. Unfortunately, it leaves -as Lisa showed us- the door wide open for abuse. Therefore, we estimate more Small Business owners to invest into reputation management and developing a solid social media plan including Twitter, LinkedIN,and You Tube.

    However, leaving the negative aspects behind, the integration of Twitter into Google’s search results is also a huge opportunity for Small Business to get noted.

  9. Thanx for the RT! @TBreputation: RT @LakeCountyEGR: Google Releases Real-Time Reputation Problem |

  10. I suspect that this is going to open up the proverbial “can of worms” and the abuse of this new “tool” will reach epic proportions.

    Bing can’t be kicking Google Ass that much can they?

    On the flip side this also opens up another service that marketing consultants can add to their social media packages.

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