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May 24, 2009

SOCK PUPPETS & CAPTAIN KANGAROO

by stevenwyer

Do you remember sock puppets? As a kid I would draw eyes and mouths on my white tube socks. I think I learned it from Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Green Jeans.

Stick my hand in the sock and there it was; a new being capable of expressing my long repressed emotions. Sock puppets could bite, hit and say things that I risked getting my mouth washed out with soap for.

We have our own versions of sock puppets today. We no longer need markers or tube socks, just a computer keyboard and five minutes. When I was a kid, I had to get the attention of someone before my sock puppet performance could be commented on (usually a sibling saying “Mom, brother just hit me with his sock!) Today Google automatically scrapes nearly all blogs and twitter feeds, providing a global stage for every performance good and bad. Any “performance” can get high up on the Google rankings without even trying.

Put out an inferior product, have a few misunderstood customer service / marketing maneuvers, and there will be a swarm of online bad press from modern day sock puppets. Maybe this won’t kill you, but if it’s bad enough to get spotted by Consumerist.com or AwfulMarketing.com then you’re going to see your business page rankings start to get nailed with a bunch of bad reviews and publicity.

Negative blog posts on sites such as ripoffreport.com and complaintsboard.com have turned up the volume and given credence to a new generation of sock puppets. Performing through pseudonyms or without identity and with no recourse available to the person attacked, these puppets are damaging businesses, professional practices and multi-generational brands with the stroke of the keyboard. The sites posting these complaints remain largely untouchable and conventional recourse has satisfied very few victims.

This is why you and your company need to keep an eye on the amateurs and overall “chatter”. It should now be part of every branding strategy to ensure that your online identity doesn’t get on the wrong side of the renegade sock puppets of the world. Complaints, negative reviews and malicious postings by just a few people can drive away a great deal of real business and you will never even know what you have missed.

Captain Kangaroo had a bunny rabbit as his foil. Performances were always concluded with moral lessons about kindness, friendship and respect. Sherry Lewis had Lamb Chop and life was simpler. But with all of these nostalgic references to puppets set aside, sock puppets today should be taken very seriously. Without a reputation management company on your side, you will have no one to call for help as you are attacked and there is no conventional rescue.

-Steven C. Wyer, Reputation Advocate

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