Social Media: The Double Edged Sword

By Vanessa Copeland

Social media can be amazing. It is a great way to reach a large number of people from a wide range of backgrounds with very little effort. It can be used to promote your business and reach people that traditional advertising may never reach. It has been proven, time and again, that Social Media can be really, really good… until it isn’t. For every example of how Social Media resulted in something good you will likely find three examples of how it devastated someone and/or their business. Below are three examples of how Social Media can be used to tear down your business just as quickly as it can be used to build it up.

  1. Things live on in infamy

Nothing ever dies on Social Media. There was a recent example of a local business owner who reached out to the public regarding whether or not to keep his business open. As with any opinion seeking post, he received some criticism to which he reacted pretty harshly in the form of name-calling and profanity. Even though he removed the comments and apologized, the screen shots circulated Facebook at the speed of a California wildfire. These types of behaviors, while easily forgivable on the individual level, are rarely forgiven by the public on a business level. It’s a bell you just can’t unring. These kinds of incidents are a favorite topic for Facebook discussions and denouncements. Even in cases where the transgression happened decades before Social Media, it can bring those mistakes back to haunt you. Just ask Paula Deen. 

2. Social Media is a useful platform for disgruntled employees and/or customers

While things like Yelp! and TripAdvisor can be very useful tools to get customer feedback on things your business is doing right and on areas of improvement, it is also a useful tool for employees or customers to air their grievances and ward off potential customers. Recently, another local business owner fell victim to a disgruntled employee’s campaign of destruction via Yelp!. The former employee and the employee’s friends took to Yelp! to give the business poor ratings and reviews in retaliation for the employee’s dismissal. This type of thing can definitely deter potential customers, who take these kinds of reviews at face value, from visiting your establishment. It is an unfortunate side-effect of these kinds of apps and services. Unfortunately the age of hiding behind a computer screen has allowed people to spew criticisms and, at times, outright lies with little to no repercussions. 

3. Yours and your employees’ personal pages can be linked to your business

 The harsh reality of your personal social page vs. your business social media page is that, more often than not, the online community will link the two. No one knows this better than Chick-fil-A owner, Dan Cathy. Some of you may remember his comment regarding his support for “traditional family values” in 2012 and the shit storm that followed it. LGBTQ activists held “kiss days” in their local restaurants which in turn prompted supporters to turn out in large numbers in support of the chain. Even now, 7 years later, Chick-fil-A is still #cancelled for many.  In fact, Chick-fil-A recently opened it’s first U.K. location and the locals are furious. 

These are just a few of the down sides of using Social Media for your business. While I do still believe it is necessary in today’s market, I would urge you to do it with a consciousness to remain professional and with an understanding that anything you do or say can and will be used against you and your business.

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