This morning, Abid at Crafted Pixelz broke the news that a hitherto unknown digital marketing outfit in Stoke called New Age Media Ltd appeared to have been spamming Google Places reviews for the north west.
So "New Age Media" appear to be going round giving all the Manc digital agencies 1 star ratings - http://t.co/yFmXpU5d. Not cool.— Abid Din (@craftedpixelz) May 24, 2012
Two accounts, by the name of Stephen and Peter consistently marked digital agencies as 1 star and occasionally added one-line reviews. At the same time, they marked up New Age Media. Naturally, this annoyed a hell of a lot of people. (At the time of writing, the four pages’ worth of reviews are being slowly deleted – screenshot).
Update: this has now hit The Drum magazine.
When you work in the digital industry, you don’t mess with it. As soon as this came out on Twitter, the rapid response and investigation suggested the following:
- Stephen appeared to be Stephen Mizon (@Smizon) the founder of New Age Media, describing himself in his Twitter profile as providing tips on running a business.
- Peter appeared to be Peter Wootton (@PeterWoottonSEO), “Head of SEO” at New Age Media. In his Twitter profile, he calls himself a “credible” expert.
The flurry of tweets this morning awoke the @NewAgeMediaLtd Twitter account. And, of course, they went for the classic “disgruntled employee” approach.https://twitter.com/NewAgeMediaLtd/status/205632080812572672 https://twitter.com/NewAgeMediaLtd/status/205632315030904833
…which is odd, given it seems their founder and Head of SEO appear to be linked with this given the names and Twitter. Oh, and they (were) listed on LinkedIn as a Sole Proprietorship (ht _@chappers_).
New Age Media claimed on Twitter that “an ex-employee is being investigated” but given that the names of the Google accounts match the founder and the head of SEO, this doesn’t seem very convincing. Additionally, in an now-deleted tweet, @smizon provided his opinion on the ethics of leaving negative reviews (see RT here).
Bemusingly, New Age Media claim the reviews were left by “Steven” (an ex-employee) not “Stephen” (their founder).https://twitter.com/NewAgeMediaLtd/status/205644908416073729
I invite you to click on the links above to check the spellings.
New Age Media’s website also appears to be a bit of a mess. Their website has an inaccurate company registration number listed (and name). If you’re interested, here’s Newage Media Limited‘s profile. And maybe it’s time Pete read some of his articles on online reputation management (although the free content sites that highly similar articles appear on are not particularly high quality). Update: I’ve not been able to corroborate any of the grandiose-sounding statements made on their client testimonial pages like this either.
In any case, any firm worth its salt would take responsibility and apologise rather than simply divert the blame. This hasn’t yet been done.
This whole debacle is ridiculous and humiliating for New Age Media. If you’re trying to promote your brand, the last thing you do is slag off your competitors and then lie about it. The digital and creative industry in Manchester is a community that works together and talks to each other. And stuff like this gets found out quickly.
On a positive note, within an hour of Abid’s first tweet and subsequent retweets, I was messaged by a contact at Google. This afternoon, he’s let me know that the reviews have been marked as spam and the accounts blacklisted from reviewing ever again. Victory!
New Age Media have now deleted their Twitter account. Let’s hope we never hear of this agency again.
Update: In a bizarre move, New Age Media have now posted a breathtakingly arrogant response on their website. And, according to the commenters below, it’s alleged that they’ve created other fake Google Places accounts in the names of complainants on Twitter.
Have a look at what else was being said online.
@_SenoraBlanco sums up the whole affair in one image: