Boss of Anglian Bus and Coaches hits back at Wikipedia allegations
An East Anglian bus firm has found itself at the centre of a false social media whispering campaign stating that it has gone into administration.
Bosses at Beccles-based Anglian Bus and Coach Ltd have been forced to counter rumours placed on Wikipedia and Facebook wrongly stating that it was in difficulties.
Director Andrew Pursey said the company had reported the issue to Wikipedia, while staff have tried to counter comments left on its Facebook page, but he admitted that the allegations had proved unsettling for staff.
'It's categorically not true,' he said. 'There was somebody putting malicious things on Wikipedia which we had to stop, and then it appeared on Facebook.
'We don't know who it is. There was a spate of it in the middle of last year and then it dried up and nothing happened, but in the last week or so there has been a couple more instances where somebody has altered the Wikipedia page.'
More and more businesses are establishing a presence via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as a means of marketing themselves, but the issue highlights how vulnerable firms can be in the face of a negative social media onslaught.
'I really don't know what possesses people to do it,' Mr Pursey said. 'We've reported it to Wikipedia. It's quite damaging and we have spent a lot of time picking up the pieces.'
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In fact Mr Pursey said Anglian, which employs 120 staff and runs a fleet of 75 buses, has enjoyed an 8pc rise year-on-year in passenger numbers between January 2011 and 2012. Last year the firm also invested �1.35m in new buses.
However, in common with other bus companies, he said the firm was braced for expected cuts in subsidies from Norfolk County Council, while government plans for a 20pc cut in diesel rebate would also push up costs and could see fares rise. Transport companies are also waiting to see if the government will press ahead with plans for a 3p-a-litre fuel duty rise in August.
'The prospects look good and we're quite excited about 2012,' he said. 'We are making some changes to services in April, but we are introducing new services. That's got to be balanced by what we know is coming. We know there will be cuts in Norfolk County Council subsidies, so there will be some changes reflecting that.'
Chris Baines, PR account director at Norwich-based communications specialists Shorthose Russell, which last year launched a 'listening' service to help companies monitor what is being said about them online, said: 'We do have some clients we do social media monitoring for to ensure they are well-prepared for a crisis, but the majority of clients use it more as a marketing tool.
'Most companies are watching their Facebook pages anyway. It's more about the items that are in the forums or the blogs, where they are not looking all the time.
'But in this day and age, whether you are big business or a small business, if you are in the digital space, there are no boundaries. People see companies online and they don't know how big or small they are.'