Yesterday I spoke at the RICS Suffolk Association about effective Social Media for Construction Professionals. See the slides and information download at the bottom of this post.
After the talk one of the audience asked an interesting question.
He was concerned about the way in which the World Wide Web can be used to misrepresent people, and, he thought, lead to customers being duped by charlatans.
He gave the example of a man who states on his website that he is ‘The Best Roofer in Suffolk’, yet it is common knowledge within the industry that he isn’t very good at his job. Unsuspecting visitors to his website might believe it, and having said it, others also believe it to be true.
At the time I replied that whilst the self-publishing aspect of the web means that people can make unsubstantiated statements, on balance the Internet makes it more possible for the credibility of such claims to be evaluated and for them to be debunked.
The Internet is Full of Lies…
The example of Colchester MP Bob Russell was brought up, as last week he stated in parliament that whilst he has never had a Twitter account, earlier that day someone set up an account impersonating him. Given that he is an MP, this matter made it into the local TV news the following day. Impersonation is against the rules in twitter, and the account was taken down within 24 hours.
What is interesting to me is not that these things happen (they always have), but that they are dealt with so quickly. An allegation made against him in a newspaper would have taken much longer to resolve via the Press Complaints Commission, and often a retraction might be produced many months later, in a small column at the bottom of page 97.
What do you think?
Lets get back to the roofer. How do you think such claims should be dealt with? If you google ‘Best Roofer in Suffolk’ you’ll get many review sites, but what credibility do they have?
Recently the mainstream media has been interested in this subject, and how sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon are falling prey to sock puppets – people who post using an alias to deceive the reader. One author recently admitted to pretenting to be a reader of his own books to raise the rating of his novels on Amazon. There have also been allegations in the press about the former Housing Minister Grant Shapps editing his Wikipedia Entry.
So what does all this tell us? I think it tells us that:
- We should be wary of what we read online;
- There is no substitute for personal experience;
- Fear of the internet is a popular news story;
- Online tools that encourage discussion (like Twitter and Linkedin) can actually help uncover charletans;
- Don’t stop meeting real people and using the telephone – lets work with the people we know and trust.
Your comments most welcome.
In the meantime you can view the slides below, and download the information sheet (with clickable links) from the RICS session.