So a funny thing happened to me today. Not funny ha ha, a funny peculiar sort of thing. You might find it funny ha ha, I don’t know. That’s the nature of perception, it’s individual.

Anyway, Chris Gilchrist was writing a bit of an agent provocateur article about adviser charging in Money Marketing and used the Bamfords as a working example. Cue spleen-venting from IFAs and whatnot; no change there.

What was different was that some no-neck trollboy anonymous coward left a poisonous comment on the comment board, it was so nasty it might even have been actionable. And what was really different was that the alias he (definitely a he) chose was, ‘Mark Polson’.

So this is a different thing now. MM’s lamentable comments facility does nothing to validate identity and so stuff like this can sometimes make it past the moderators. (They’re putting a new system in place; should be in on Friday, can’t come soon enough).

Now, this isn’t what I want to talk about, but before I go on, if the troll is reading this, let’s hear from you, hotshot. Your quick wit and incisive analysis deserve a wider audience. I’d love to play my part in that.

What is my subject is social media. It took me 30 minutes to find out what was happening because I was with a client. By then the Bamfords had, quite rightly, hit Twitter to punch back at the comment, and thankfully had the grace to ask if it was actually me that had left it. 10 minutes later the comment was down, thanks to the quick work of Paul McMillan and the MM team. The Bamfords graciously accepted that it was a troll, and we all got on with our day. But the damage was done.

This is what I want to talk about. If I hadn’t been alert to Twitter during a busy business day (it’s always on) that could easily have run and spiralled for 2-3 hours or more. Maybe a day. By that point the comment board would have become a story in its own right. And I’d have been trying to punch back from the bottom of a very deep well.

This is a cautionary tale, I think, for advisers (or anyone) wanting to get active on social media. If you put yourself out there, you will attract attention from the bottom-feeders. And sometimes something bad will happen, like someone posting something in your name on a comments board which lacks security. Are you ready for that? Are you keeping a weather eye out for your business’s external reputation at all times, or is it a sometimes thing? If the latter, are you paying someone to take care of that for you? If not, what would happen to your business, reputation if someone libelled someone else in your name? How much would that cost you?

These are real questions. We work in a real-time industry, and that brings huge opportunities. And trolling. It also brings trolls, trolling, because that’s what they do. Engagement is not a part-time thing; it’s a binary state, like pregnancy. You are or you aren’t. I’m glad today I was; if you make use of these channels make sure you are too.