Marketers have long known the power of word of mouth. The Internet multiplies that power exponentially, and companies need strategies to deal with damaging content — from nasty comments to leaked trade secrets — circulating on the Net, says Scott Erickson, associate professor of marketing at Ithaca

College in New York, who presented research on “”cybersmearing”” at McMaster University’s World Congress in Hamilton, Ont., last month.

A knee-jerk lawsuit isn’t the answer, Erickson says — the negative publicity of a David-versus-Goliath scenario outweighs the benefits.

And complainers are often a source of good information about product flaws. The simplest strategy may be to resolve the problem. “”If there’s something wrong with your product or you’ve got 12-year-olds working overseas, maybe you should do something about it,”” he says.

Watch for more on cybersmear strategies in the April issue of EDGE.

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