Your Reputation is at Risk 24/7

Slalom Consultant Jeff Northcutt

Slalom Consultant Jeff Northcutt is an accomplished marketing consultant with over 10 years of consulting experience focused on marketing related programs and delivering on marketing strategies and campaigns for enterprise clients.

Yesterday I was following a fascinating social media story which I think is worth sharing. In a nutshell: just after midnight Wednesday night Samsung was accused of installing “keylogging” software on its products that can secretly track passwords and other sensitive information by recording keystrokes as they are typed. Over the course of 12 hours (majority overnight, no less) the story was shared nearly 5000 times via various social media outlets.

Relatively small impact, but the timing, series of events, and the way it was shared (or not) is what I found  most interesting.  Samsung was cleared of any wrong-doing, and the anti-virus company responsible for the false positive made a formal apology for the mistake before noon the same day, still it raises a few interesting questions, which you’ll find at the end of my post. But let’s start at the beginning….

During my morning scan of Facebook, I saw a link posted by a friend of mine that caught my attention:

The article was posted to, at 12:07AM ET, by two authors who seemingly are qualified and credible sources to be writing on the topic:

Mohamed Hassan, MSIA, CISSP, CISA is the founder of NetSec Consulting Corp, a firm that specializes in information security consulting services. He is a senior IT Security consultant and an adjunct professor of Information Systems in the School of Business at the University of Phoenix.

M. E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP-ISSMP, specializes in security and operations management consulting services and teaching. He is Chief Technical Officer of Adaptive Cyber Security Instruments, Inc. and Associate Professor of Information Assurance in the School of Business and Management at Norwich University

To their credit, by the time I saw this article posted to Facebook, there were already multiple updates made to the original article, doing their best to explain the progression of events.  But what is more interesting to me is the amount of coverage the original “accusing” story had already received in the various Social Media venues compared to the coverage that the “redeeming” stories had received.  Thousands of Tweets, hundreds of Facebook postings, and over a thousand emails sent on the topic, an unknown amount of them with the original headline seen in the Facebook posting above, with the accusation that “Samsung installs keylogger on its laptop computers”.  If I were scanning my Facebook page, and didn’t take the time to click the link, I’d have a very unfavorable impression of Samsung right about now…  But I clicked, and this is what I saw:

Meanwhile, sometime in the middle of the night, the Samsung team went into disaster avoidance mode.  By 10:18AM ET this article was posted (by a different author) clearing Samsung of any wrong-doing.  Sometime over night, Samsung had mobilized a response, presumably after being alerted to this trending topic by social media users within the company or by its social media monitoring system. The update reads: “A Samsung executive is personally delivering a randomly selected laptop purchased at a retail store to the Norwich scientists. Prof. Kabay praises Samsung for its immediate, positive and collaborative response to this situation.”

Interesting to note that Professor Kabay – one of the original authors of the accusation – “praises Samsung for it’s immediate, positive, and collaborative response” in one of the updates to the original article.  Which is a good start.  Until you take a look at the traction that the redeeming story was getting in the same Social Media venues that were so quick to share the accusation:

Notice the left sidebar? That’s right.  Zeros.  No one was sharing the story that cleared Samsung of any wrong-doing.

Also notable was the fact that the maker of the anti-virus software responsible for the “false positive” provided some closure in explaining the root-cause, and issuing a formal apology to Samsung at 11:46AM ET – just under 12 hours after the original accusation had been made.  “Unfortunately (and to our dismay), the evidence was based off of a false positive by VIPRE for the StarLogger keylogger,” the company says in its blog. “We apologize to the author Mohamed Hassan, to Samsung, as well as any users who may have been affected by this false positive.”

Notice the uptake on this angle? That’s right.  Zeros again.  No one was inclined to share the apology from GFI for the assumed damage it has done to the Samsung brand over the last 12 hours.

Here are some parting questions for your consideration:

  1. What if Samsung did not have someone monitoring this trending topic, and the story went (more) viral – especially given the timing of the release of the story?
  2. What if the person/team in place to monitor did not have the authority to mount a quick response to the accusation?
  3. How does Samsung recover from this brand blemish?  Is it more harmful to respond, than to let this die (relatively) quietly?  How might they “undo” the thousands of posts (and the resulting impressions)?
  4. How do you compensate the “accused” for this type of false accusation – is this a new cost of doing business?  Who’s responsible?
  5. How does Samsung assign value to this incident, to justify future investment in Social Media monitoring and measurement?  Presumably, this one “good catch” could justify the existence of their social media response team and software investment.  In this case, the value is in risk avoidance.
  6. How should Samsung have encouraged people to share the positive outcome, instead of (or in addition to) the accusation?

End of day update:

Accusation (negative):  5297 shares (+475 from 10AM)

Resolution (positive):  18 shares (+18 from 10AM)

Apology (positive):  5 shares (+5 from 10AM)

So the ratio of negative to positive “shares” over the course of one day was ~230:1.

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About Jeff Northcutt
Slalom Consultant Jeff Northcutt is an accomplished marketing consultant with over 10 years of consulting experience focused on marketing related programs and delivering on marketing strategies and campaigns for enterprise clients.

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