If you enjoy a high profile it’s inevitable that, at some point, someone’s going to want to take you down. Do a Google search on the name of any celebrity or public figure along with the word “sucks” or “stupid” and you’ll find some pretty disturbing stuff.
In real estate circles Enzo Raimondo has a high profile. As the boss of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria he represents the interests of nearly 1900 real estate businesses. No doubt it’s a tough job.
As with many public identities Raimondo has his fans. He also has detractors. Notable among the latter are Neil Jenman and Peter Mericka. They appear to be obsessed with Raimondo posting regular invective on their websites aimed squarely at Raimondo.
Jenman and Mericka attack the person. They hurt feelings to create a reaction. They’re internet trolls.
The word troll conjures up images of a colourful lure being dragged slowly behind a boat to catch an unsuspecting fish. It also brings to mind a malevolent mythical Nordic monster. But whatever the imagery the association is one of cunning and mischievous deception aimed at provoking an instinctive or emotional response.
In typical troll fashion their attacks on Raimondo are usually personal and devoid of substance. For example, Mericka states : “Enzo Raimondo, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) is a master of the partial-truth”. The statement is directed squarely at Raimondo describing him in a way that obliquely questions his integrity without taking a stand.
In a similar vein Mericka claims that “… real estate agents don’t want consumers to be independently informed about property valuations”. Just how he is able to know for certainty what is in the mind of all agents is unclear. He presents no corroborating evidence to substantiate his claim, instead demonising all agents by making a sweeping, unprovable assertion. It’s typical troll behaviour.
Many trolls hide their real life identities behind fictional characters and pseudonyms. Take the recently suspended fake Enzo Raimondo Twitter account as an example (a cached version is currently here). The unidentified troll took on Raimondo’s name as a pseudonym posting a number of tweets that linked to a WordPress blog entitled Enzo Raimondo. In turn each of these posts linked to either Jenman’s Real Estate News or Twitter account or to Mericka’s The Australian Real Estate Blog. In both instances the troll made use of free services – WordPress and Twitter – to attack Raimondo personally whilst avoiding any likelihood of being held accountable for their actions.
So just why do trolls work the way they do? The answer to that question would take up the contents of an entire PhD thesis. What really counts though is the end result, not their motivations.
If we take Mericka’s Twitter bio on face value he’s a “consumer advocate”. Jenman similarly claims “consumer advocacy” as something he does for love. Outside of these self-disclosures I can only speculate about their motivations. But what can be stated with certainty is that four of the top ten results on a Google search (as of December 23, 2009) using the term “Enzo Raimondo” are from either Jenman or Mericka. Two men with a passionate belief – trolls if you will – are winning this battle hands down. Their personal crusades are damaging the reputation of Raimondo and the Institute he represents.
It appears that Raimondo has made a few positive, and at least one defensive, move to advance his position. In the first instance he has a static web site that employs a number of SEO measures to help it rank number one and two in a search. He’s also joined LinkedIn, which gives him position four. A 2003 press release found on Real Estate View gives him position eight. Position three, a profile on wotnews.com.au is a lost battle as both Mericka and Jenman have almost the same number of mentions as does Raimondo.
What I find staggering is the complete absence of any mention of Raimondo on reiv.com.au in the above search. I went looking and could find no Raimondo profile page on REIV (perhaps I overlooked it) and the only textual mention of his name was a few pages buried deep within the site. It is as if the team at REIV have chosen to give Mericka and Jenman a free kick at Raimondo’s head!
Defensively Raimondo, or one of his team, may have taken steps to put a stop to the fake Twitter account as it appears that the account has been reported for misuse. This would help explain the account’s suspension.
So to the point of the article, what would you do if you were Enzo Raimondo?
There is much that could be done. I don’t intend to catalogue every move available to Raimondo. That’s a question for you to help answer within the comments. Rather I will leave the final word to Seth Godin.
Lots of things about work are hard. Dealing with trolls is one of them. Trolls are critics who gain perverse pleasure in relentlessly tearing you and your ideas down. Here’s the thing(s):
1. trolls will always be trolling
2. critics rarely create
3. they live in a tiny echo chamber, ignored by everyone except the trolled and the other trolls
4. professionals (that’s you) get paid to ignore them. It’s part of your job.
“Can’t please everyone,” isn’t just an aphorism, it’s the secret of being remarkable.
Godin here points to the stark contrast between creators and trolls. Trolls tear down while professionals create. And creating means producing content. Lots of it. It also means building a community of similarly creative people, to lift, to extend and to carry a message.
Is Raimondo doing enough? I doubt it but I’ll leave it to you.
If you were Enzo Raimondo what would you do?