Don’t Let Your Brand Disappear

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Anonymous messaging apps are not going to disappear. Your brand and reputation, however, can and will disappear if you are unprepared for a crisis.Sexting Crisis in Schools

Before an app becomes ‘old news,’ a new, more advanced app has already been created to take its place, or to work alongside or integrate with previously created apps. The app Shush, for instance, incorporates the geolocation posting abilities of Yik Yak, but goes a step further and includes a chat feature. The chat/messaging feature allows users to take the use of the app to a more personal, private level. Thus, the risk of cyberbullying and sexting increases.

Shush’s description within the app store includes the following:

Shush® is an open and safe community where users can share their opinions, thoughts, ideologies, beliefs or trade advice without revealing their identity.

Imagine a safe haven where you can truly express yourself and be empowered to engage in discussions openly or privately one on one without any hesitation.

Our goal is to provide a social experience where users can freely talk about important or controversial matters without any fear of belittlement or wrongdoing.

Browse and discover topics such as relationships, love, life, health, human nature and engage in meaningful and sometimes funny conversations with other people who may share the same views as you. Or give or get advice from people without disclosing who you are.

Join our fast growing community and be part of the journey of the new social experience.

You must be 17+ to use the app! We will not tolerate bullying, inappropriate discussions, or any subjective content!

Highlighted below are a few noteworthy sections within the description.

An open and safe community and safe haven… We will not tolerate bullying – Upon a first visit to the app, we very quickly see a post that violates a person’s privacy and safety. “Anyone call this number she’s a slut and will do anything for money ***-***-****.” The post lists a local phone number.Shush Post

By Shush’s standards, bullying is not tolerated. Shouldn’t the post be removed? Nearly two weeks later, the post is still publically viewable. This post alone throws the idea of “an open and safe community and safe haven” out the window.

Further exploration into the app reveals unsettling posts: “I don’t wanna go to school today.. I’ll just be made fun of just like in the past,” “I don’t think anybody would miss me if I ended it tonight,” and “I wouldn’t take my life, but I pray every night that God will.”

In addition to posts like the above, anonymous messaging apps are no stranger to threatening posts aimed to harm students and/or employees.

Online threat 1

Online threats and risks can also be specific to an organization and its people. Firestorm employs a Listen and Look methodology: we listen to broad social conversations in the aggregate, focusing on concepts and threat language targeted at an organization (or high-profile individuals), and look at specific subjects or persons of interest, surfaced through the listening approach.

Using geolocation, Firestorm has identified specific, actionable threats by looking at social conline threat 2onversations within the geofence of an organization. A geofence identifies the latitude and longitude of a location – think of it as an invisible dome that allows monitoring of postings that are made within that circle.

We can identify where, in fact, individuals were located when the postings occurred.  This works around the clock, every day.

These risks to organizations include:

  • Workplace violence
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Domestic abuse visited upon the company

Improving the safety of employees, customers, building (and campus) visitors and others is the top priority. A solid intelligence network can help ensure previously unknown risks are identified. Utilize monitoring tools to locate threatening posts before they become actions.

Example of a Geofence

Example of a Geofence

Learn to Leverage

Identifying threatening or inaccurate statements is also an aspect of a strong intelligence network (Related: The Containment Myth – Misinformation Magnets).  Understanding that many posts (to any online site) are protected based upon who authors the post is another aspect.

From National Labor Review Board: The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union. This protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

In 2010, the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that enforces the Act, began receiving charges in its regional offices related to employer social media policies and to specific instances of discipline for Facebook postings. Following investigations, the agency found reasonable cause to believe that some policies and disciplinary actions violated federal labor law, and the NLRB Office of General Counsel issued complaints against employers alleging unlawful conduct. In other cases, investigations found that the communications were not protected and so disciplinary actions did not violate the Act. Read the General Council Memos and Board Decisions

How do you respond to negative posts that are protected without creating a secondary issue? Leverage the information to gain insight and look into issues to improve your organization.

Word Will Travel

Information will travel via a handful of online channels: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, personal blogs and messaging apps. Whether the information is true or false does not matter, word will still travel. What matters is how you utilize these channels and the information provided. A school or business can leverage online mediums in a number of ways:

  • Brand reputation – what is being said about your organization online? Every organization must have monitoring in place. Listening in to online conversations and identifying what is being communicated regarding your organization and people is crucial.
  • Thwarting of potential threats – In today’s world, if someone has ill-intent, 80 percent of the time, someone else knows. Sixty-seven percent of the time, two or more people know. When people know, they talk. And where do they talk? Social Media.- Jim Satterfield. Can you predict your next crisis? Identify your vulnerabilities and take action to mitigate threats.
  • Customer (or student) feedback – Understanding what is being said online about your organization indicates organizational strengths and areas of improvement.

Lessons Learned in the Last Year

Anonymous messaging apps are not going to disappear. Your brand and reputation, however, can and will if monitoring is not in place prior to a crisis. Take advantage of online communication and create an intelligence network that works to your organization’s advantage.

As technology advances, means to tarnish or destroy brand reputation change. Are you up-to-date with the latest online threats to your organization? Creating and establishing a solid intelligence network may sound intimidating, but we’re here to help. Do not hesitate to contact a member of the Firestorm team for assistance.

Related article: Another school district learns about anonymous-message app the hard way

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