Very public, and very permanent. Why you should be so careful interacting with customers online.

Very public, and very permanent. Why you should be so careful interacting with customers online.

One of the great things about social media for small businesses is the ability to interact with potential customers instantly. It’s so easy now to test out a concept, get feedback on a new product or service as well as build the voice of your brand.

There are some potential pitfalls with conducting business in such a public forum, though. The main one being is that when things go wrong, there is nowhere to hide.

A quote from Winston Churchill sums things up neatly:”A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” If you substitute ‘A lie’ for ‘Negativity’, it illustrates the fact that few things travel as quickly as bad publicity – and social media is a huge source of fuel for bad publicity (as well as the good kind!).

You may have discovered in the past that major corporations will ignore 10 complaint emails or letters, then respond within minutes as soon as a complaint is raised on Facebook or Twitter. There is good reason for this, and you might not be surprised to know these corporations employ entire teams of people to manage their social media accounts.

These companies know that for a large proportion of consumers, their social media profile is the front desk, and therefore ‘the face’ of the business and as such it must be protected at all costs.

While on a smaller scale, the same is true of any business operating in the UK. As fewer people physically enter a company’s premises, its website and social media pages become more and more important.

Businesses should never write anything on their pages they would not be happy every potential customer reading, either now or 5 years down the line. Even if dealing with an irate customer, every effort should be made to remain professional and remember that this is not a private email exchange.

There have been a large number of Facebook and Twitter PR gaffes in recent years which have damaged the reputation of companies.The majority of these appear to have been caused by a member of staff not thinking through how a piece of text might be interpreted. This is incredibly easy to overlook, but the damage from a simple mistake can be catastrophic.

For most small businesses the stakes are somewhat smaller, but it remains true that real care must be taken when dealing with customers online. It’s public, it’s permanent, and even a small mistake can quickly become magnified. Be careful out there!

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