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Work/Life: Google Alerts go where your friends don’t dare

Do you check out your reflection in spoons? Secretly coif your comb-over in a cufflink? Attempt to zap a zit in a mirror ball tile? OK, let’s be serious: does anyone really care about your forthcoming volume of slam haiku?

Do you check out your reflection in spoons?

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Secretly coif your comb-over in a cufflink?

Attempt to zap a zit in a mirror ball tile?

OK, let’s be serious: does anyone really care about your forthcoming volume of slam haiku?

Google alerts, the online narcissist’s favorite tool, can help with all but the first three (but give it time). A Google alert tells you when someone noted or quoted you on the web, seemingly in the last 5 nanoseconds. You know instantly if someone found your bleat about something you liked or hated useful, or if you’ve butchered a sacred cow on the way to making a point.

I’m sure Google alerts aren’t new to the fast folks reading this, yet I meet business owners every day with websites who draw a blank when I mention it. So this post is for them.

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“People will never tell you what they really think about you – they’ll let you keep on making the same mistakes,” my dad would say back in 30 B.G. (30 years Before Google). As in, “every time a friend succeeds I die a little.”


Google alerts spell it out so your fair-weather friends don’t have to.

One alert led me to a page where I was quoted out of normal context on a site with a religious bent, an audience I wouldn’t have thought I’d cross paths with in the blogosphere. Fascinating.

Another alert led to an exchange with a career counselor about my ideas on constructing a Work/Life job by writing your own duty statement. Just I was starting to wonder if my ideas were useful to anyone except customer evangelists on bicycles.

It’s not all useful. You’ll get anonymous web cammers ‘n’ spammers pointing you to their dreary disrobing sites. (Funny how we’ve all “got one”, but we wanna look at someone else’s …)

And then, there are the flamers.

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A high flying comrade insists it’s vital to protect one’s personal brand, and that means getting rid of any negative press.

“I vet everything remotely alluding to my name before, during and after it’s made public,” he says. When bloggers flamed him on a site announcing his new appointment, he threatened to sue the site owners for defamation unless they deleted the comments.

On the Bike Friday customer reviews site, we publish all reviews, but of course, we try to rectify the problem before posting the review unaltered. Readers can decide for themselves whether to believe the 10% negative or 90% positive.

We FC bloggers can’t remove comments. They’re moderated by an unseen eye and magically or tragically appear sometime after you post.

YouTube avoids getting into defamation strife because it lets you remove comments, and it can also take down offensive videos. I had a video removed – someone must have had an issue with it and done the typical neighborly thing, and asked YouTube to remove it rather than me.

I’m on the fence about censorship, as in, removing inflammatory or character assassinating comments. On one hand, I can see that a false or misleading statement can be given life in the media – people have died or been locked up for years over hearsay.

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On the other hand, there’s value in full disclosure. Putting the ugly statement out there and letting it stand – and wither – of it’s own accord. Corporations faced with a slur on their reputation often choose to approach it that way; stay silent, let things pass, then it’s business as usual. They don’t realize that people never forget, just like men complain of women remembering some seriously cobwebby antecedents.

Celebs and other charismatic individuals seem to get off lighter with the public’s elephant-like memory. I don’t recall Hugh Grant muttering much about being caught with his pants down. I suspect it was merely the gutsiest personal PR stunt of the decade, as his career’s hardly suffered. That’s PR power.

Clinton had a bit more to say about his gaff, so the conversation about it dragged on while half the world was quietly starving or killing itself. Again, the public seems to have forgiven him – along with the routine starving millions. A few jokes translated into 100 dialects are all that remain for the follies of these two men, and there’s no better PR than ascending into the vernacular or the limelight of comedy. Like ’em or not, Hugh, Bill and Clinton show true PR resilience. We can learn from them.

My YouTube bikefriday and galfromdownunder channels exist mainly to make my little digital camera forays available to customers and friends, but since they’re public they’re both up to be shot down.

On the galfromdownunder videos I got a raft of flames licking at my ankles, like ‘ugly Asian @#$% talk too much on all her video please shut up.’

Some of you will think, that’s pretty obnoxious. But if you’ve grown up a minority, believe me, sticks and stones …

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I was about to delete this comment, along with several others criticizing the Asian female anatomy, Asian accent and anything Asian in general then took a closer look.

The comment is essentially saying ‘please talk less’. I have often thought about toning down my commentary on my videos, but get over-enthused once I press the “rolling” button. This is a reminder to put that improvement in action.

The “ugly Asian” part, I can’t do much about, other than not train the camera on myself so much, but that’s the fun of being a no-frills, one-gal production crew.

Finally, left it there and posted a comment:

“She no make video for you, she make video for deaf customer.”

So I got some advice to use or refuse, and a bit of a chuckle out of this clown.

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Keep your fair-weather friends happy, and set up a Google Alert or three.


Bike Friday Customer Evangelist Lynette Chiang
ignores all the smoke colored mirrors in her building now she’s got Google Alerts.

About the author

Lynette Chiang is an award-winning copywriter, brand evangelist, social media community manager, filmmaker, solo world bicycle adventurer and inventor of useful things. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Harvard University curriculums, the New York Times Book Review, FastCompany and the relationship marketing business press.

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