How Businesses Can Recover from a Good Old Fashioned Twitter Impostering

Businessweek uses an unfortunate instance to show businesses how they can recover when they fall victim to a Twitter poser:

When Barry Schwartz logged on to Twitter on Jan. 27, he had 20 messages waiting for him, all with unwelcome news: Someone was impersonating his company on the social network. Schwartz runs RustyBrick, a 15-employee, $2 million Web development company in Suffern, N.Y., and uses his company’s name as his Twitter handle. The impostor had set up a profile using a slight variation of his company’s name and started following Schwartz’s 4,000-plus contacts, which included clients. Those folks who in turn followed the impostor saw a Web link with a message reminiscent of spam: "Hey guys, you have to get this new Twitter Success Guide. It’s priceless." Schwartz, who doesn’t use Twitter for sales promotion, was chagrined. "The last thing I want is to have people thinking that I’m following them and [that] I’m selling a Twitter Success Guide," he says.

With the growing popularity of blogs, social networks, and customer review sites, the job of managing a company’s online reputation is becoming ever more complex. And it’s not only strangers who pose a threat. With the viral nature of social media, it’s now possible for an unhappy customer or a disgruntled former employee to reach thousands of people with the click of a mouse. Clint Page, CEO of Dotster, a 100-employee, $50 million Internet service provider in Vancouver, Wash., says his company regularly patrols the Web looking for negative comments. "A comment left unchallenged becomes perception, and perception becomes reality," he says.