Wild West 2.0
by Michael Fertik & David Thompson
c.2010, Amacom
$24.95 / $29.95 Canad
a272 pages


20100728-ABIZWildwest-0101You’re feeling rattlesnake-mean and madder than a wild bull.
Somebody’s been messing with your reputation online, posting things that are untrue. You saw it, your clients saw it — heck, for all you know, the whole world saw it — and you’re not taking it lightly. There’ll be a showdown at the www-dot-corral one day, but the problem is, you don’t know who you’re dueling with.

How can you fix this mess? Can you make sure it doesn’t happen again?
You can, according to Michael Fertik and David Thompson. According to their new book “Wild West 2.0”, your business can survive the Technology Frontier.

Without a doubt, there are plenty of nefarious things that are done on the Internet, and you simply can’t ignore them. Even if you’re not a big fan of the web, your family, friends and clients are.

For the most part, the online community is a good thing, and its citizens behave in a civilized manner. But it takes just seconds for a juicy rumor or nasty comment to “go viral” and spread around the world for anyone to read. If you’re the target, you rarely have legal recourse.

The thing to remember is that trying to remove or squash a reputation-ruining web page only makes things worse. Search engines like Google have algorithms that put the most-viewed websites at the top of a search. Fretting, checking and re-checking a worrisome website just raises its position. Don’t do it.
So what can you do?

“Understanding the technical nature of the Internet is the first step toward monitoring and managing your online reputation,” the authors say. Also know that, once something is online, it can move into obscurity, but it will never disappear completely. Search engine companies, by the way, almost never remove postings.

To be proactive and protect your reputation, know your audience. In reality, who will view those offensive websites and who will care? Let the furor die down on its own, if possible, and ask friends to post neutral or positive things on their own sites to counteract the bad. Sign up for as many e-mail addresses and domain names you can find, using your name and its varieties. Monitor your name on a regular basis.

Somebody rustlin’ up a heap o’ trouble for your business? “Wild West 2.0” can help you put the varmints in their place.

Starting with history and a list of the good and bad the Internet has to offer, Fertik and Thompson make it perfectly clear that terrible web things can happen to decent businesses, and that while you have little recourse, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage. Although I’m as tech-savvy as the next person, I was stunned at the authors’ stern reminders of the power of the Internet. Who knew that a business book could be scarier than any horror novel?

If you use the Internet for business but are concerned about its downside, this book is a must-read. Having “Wild West 2.0” around is like calling in the posse.­ — Terri Schlichenmeyer

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