Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Conundrum of Communication

About the Author
Michelle Patterson is excited with the new technologies that are threatening to change the way we stay in touch and communicate, particular in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.

Since the dawn of man, people have been communicating. That's no secret to anyone. It's only gotten faster, better and easier since the days of tin cans and string. First came the lowly phone, which begat Voice Over Internet Protocol, which begat Unified Communications and Video Conferencing. Now add to that Instant Messaging and all the other ways we have of talking with each other. And add in all the other ways that I have yet to mention — social media, for example, or haven't thought of until just this moment. The multitude of one-off chat clients, for example.

This brooks the question — how much is too much? Or rather, how many ways are too many ways? How do we choose the best way of reaching the person we want to reach, and at what point do we sit back in our chairs, baffled by the sheer number of choices?

Is it possible to have too many ways of reaching a single person? At what point do we give up and say "Forget it, I'm just sending them an email. If they get it, they get it, if they don't, they don't."

That's just some food for thought in this rapidly moving technological age.

Now think of this situation in a different way. Think of a service provider. Of course, as part of their excellent marketing strategy, they'll want to monitor all their communications, and all the things being said about them so they'll have a chance to respond to them. They'll want to be seen as proactive, at best; they certainly won't want to be seen as not responsive to their customers.

Yet with the all the methods of communication that I brought up above, it's now become quite easy for a small team — even just one person — to levy an amount of pressure on that service provider that would be easy to term "unholy."

Imagine you work for the marketing department of this service provider, and you see emails coming in from this person — one an hour. Messages, once every ten minutes. Calls several times a day. Twitter messages at all hours. They malign your service, they accuse you of things you didn't do, he's got some bone to pick, an axe to grind, and you don't even know why.

Now imagine your service provider is an SMB. Now it's easy to see how this one person can cause the collapse of your enterprise — not only do you spend too much time managing the negative spin created by this guy, but you spend a lot of time answering his queries as opposed to actually doing your real jobs.

So how can an SMB manage this potential threat? Is there a process that can be adapted to deal with this madness?

Of course it's easy to block or ignore messages, post rebuttals or disclaimers, but as soon as you do that against one username, another will pop up. It's not terribly useful to play whack-a-mole with people in cyberspace, as it's so easy to create and use different identities for the same person.

You could employ your own talent. Quite often even things did digitally leave invisible footprints. A skilled hacker can find these footprints and backtrack them to discover who posted them, from where, and when — but then what would you do with that information when you have it? So far as I know, it's not technically illegal to harass a company, but it would be to send a hit squad against those harassing you. So there would be some questionable legality involved.

Or perhaps there would be some automated process that you could set up on your own servers — it could look for your company's name juxtaposed with any number of unfavorable words, and then send those messages, UC-style, to a "questionable" bin.

That might do the trick.

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