Social media is a business reality. Whether your business has a Facebook page or it Tweets or sends out Instagrams: Your business is out there.
What do you do about it? Can you control social media? How can you take advantage of it and not let it be a detriment to your profits?
Recently, we have seen in Victoria how Facebook can literally cause a well-established business to close its doors. Thankfully temporarily.
The problem with social media posts is the viewer doesn’t really know if the posts are truthful. A picture taken at a certain location may or may not be taken at that location.
A competitor could sabotage your business using social media.
Also with blogs, comments to newspaper articles and Facebook, I have found it’s usually a handful of people stirring things up.
So whether anyone stops and asks if the people posting these pictures and stories are credible, these few people unfortunately have the ability to affect the success of your business.
What do you do? First of all, you can’t just ignore the posts. You have to choose to respond in a diplomatic way. But maybe you have no clue this is happening. The first clue might be a decline in sales.
If you are not tech savvy, ask a friend who is. Google your business name, log in to Facebook and search for your business name to see what pops up.
This takes time, but it’s our business environment right now, so it’s necessary.
Next, to address negative posts about your business, go to those sites and comment truthfully. Admit if there is a problem and tell the public you are working to fix the problem and appreciate their continued loyalty. Mention that you employ “x” number of people, and you are working hard to serve your customers and keep employees paid. Putting a human element into your comment will reach out to people and tell them that you are sincere. If the posts and comments won’t go away, then invite the posters and bloggers to come to your business and meet you face to face so you can fix the problem.
It’s easy to hide behind a computer, but who is really sincere in giving feedback in order to improve your business? Again, state your business allows you to support your family, pay your bills, and you are dedicated to making it right for your customer. Many times the bloggers or Facebook commenters don’t realize their remarks could damage a household’s sole source of income. Capitalize on that human element that social media is.
Finally, if it gets too bad, consult an attorney. There might be defamation charges that need to be filed.
To be proactive with social media and your business, you might want to hire an employee or even your child to be your social media manager. We are lucky to have high school and college students throughout our service area who might be interested in a part-time job.
Maybe all they do is keep you informed about what’s happening in social media as it relates to your business. You still make all the decisions on how to respond and what to say to your customers.
Second, have quality standards already in place that state how your business and employees should address safety, food handling, customer service, environmental concerns and anything that might cause your business to be mentioned in an undesirable post.
A little planning sometimes prevents a lot of heartache down the road.
Last, consult an attorney ahead of time on how to be more proactive with social media situations and responding to them correctly.
Remember the benefits to social media could be to build brand awareness, improve customer service, become a resource, broadcast events, to receive instant feedback and track results quickly.
However, according to a USA Today article by Oliver St. John, 61 percent of small businesses don’t see a return on investment on social media activities and say Facebook is the hardest social media network to maintain.
Nevertheless, you can’t ignore it, and you must be proactive with your social media endeavors.
Lisa Barr is the senior business advisor at the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Corporation.
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