Whatever you call them – trolls, keyboard warriors, cyberbullies – we think we can all agree that the internet for the emblazoned and bitter has turned into an almost wild-west parallel; a free-for-all with no regulation or supervision. Platforms like Reddit, Glassdoor, Kununu, Indeed, and Yelp have built businesses based on negative online reviews from unverified sources with NO required proof that someone ever walked through the front door of the business, encouraging an epidemic of online defamation of small to mid-sized businesses.
Recently, here at DMC Atlanta, we had our own run-in with a troll and came out on the other side entertained but also highly perplexed. Are there clear and defined repercussions for libel? Since when did anonymity classify as credibility? How is it plausible that individuals, without proving their connection to a business, can fabricate falsities with no consequences?
Our unease quickly faded because, for us, our value will never be determined by an anonymous writer who we can’t even identify as someone who ever set foot in our business. We refuse to allow someone the opportunity to define the trajectory of our company because let’s face it, it’s a whole lot easier to complain than to create change. But for some businesses, especially those new in tenure, reviews are damning –crushing foot traffic and sales.
Thankfully, we have 16 years of experience, partnership with several Fortune 50 clients, countless “Best and Brightest Companies To Work For” awards, and $100,000+ raised for non-profits to be phased long-term by garbage. Yet, here we are, fighting it out for the little guy; the small businesses who are doing their best but are being torn apart by the forever offended troll or his cousin, the persistent debate troll.
Our Founder and CEO of DMC Atlanta, Adam Dorfman, said it best when a writer on Glassdoor accused us of operating a pyramid scheme and cult. “Look up pyramid scheme. We aren’t one. We represent three different businesses on the Fortune 50. We pay our employees for their work on a W2 basis and require no investment from them of any sort other than their time and effort. In terms of being cult-like, I’m happy to respond to that. I’ve written about it before. Sometimes people think that any group of people who tend to think in the same way are cult-like. I like to think of it as surrounding myself with a team of people with shared values. Some people comment that my company wants our team all to think the same way. They are confused. We want them to think IN the same way – to learn to think in the affirmative, about what they do want to happen, and about the life they want to have. WHAT they think about is up to them. That they choose positive, constructive thoughts for which they are accountable, alongside their words and actions, is what we require. If learning to be more optimistic, driven, accountable, and positive is cult-like, sign me up.”
Did we mention this internet troll said we had no soul?! They’ve clearly never met our team – a collection of some of the nicest, most generous people on the planet. But that’s what trolls do, spew gossip and hatred because life is hard and, by gosh, someone BETTER pay attention to them to fill whatever void so desperately needs filling. Despite personal & intimate attacks on our management team, Glassdoor, in all their glory, refused to remove both reviews. Then again, why would a site that benefits from the proliferation of malice in order to increase advertising dollars spent care about their impact on the small business community? That’s right, they don’t.
With the average score of ALL businesses on Glassdoor ranking at a whopping 3.3, we think it’s clear to see the only thing “transparent” about this platform is its convoluted business model. Censor positive reviews written from the same office location (meaning that HAPPY employees are not allowed to review their current job while at work), charge companies between $6,000 and $20,000 a year for a “premium, employer profile” and remove nothing short of a review laden with slurs and profanity.
As we close the chapter on our internet wild west shootout, we pause to think about what is fact and what is fiction. Fact is that “research suggests that people heed negative reviews more than positive ones — despite their questionable credibility (New York Times) and “marketing data indicates that negative reviews, in particular, dramatically influence our buying behaviors.” In short, it’s a fact that we are single-handedly allowing ourselves to be persuaded by the words of STRANGERS! WHY?! What is not a fact and is fiction is one’s opinion. Opinions are subjective, opinions are ever-changing, and opinions are personal rather than professional. Opinions will not help you make educated decisions, only you can do that.
Sadly, the internet will continue to be a wasteland for people who hide behind anonymity and libel will continue to ruin people’s reputations, marriages, businesses, and more, but the silver lining is YOU reading this blog. We hope YOU always have the strength to make decisions on your own and the foresight to see potential vs. problems. We hope YOU recognize that real concerns are addressed in person, by people who stand by their word, sign their name to it, and handle conflict like adults. And lastly, we hope you tell all the trolls out there they can go back under their bridge because we’re not feeding into their nonsense any longer!