5 social media faux pas that will ruin your business reputation

by Lee Hopkins on November 25, 2013 · 5 comments

in miscellaneous,tools

Guest post by John Terra.

The Internet confuses and enrages me!!!Social media offers rich potential for reaching out to new customers, building a relationship with them, and increasing your business’ visibility and brand. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to all of this easy communication.

Much in the same way that customers can get first-hand information about your new products, services, and promotions, they also can get a ringside seat when you mess up, which in turn can damage your online reputation.

Here are five social media missteps that can ruin your good name. Learn what they are, and avoid them.

Being Dishonest
Back in the ancient, pre-Internet days, a merchant, say for example a used car salesman, could tell a prospective buyer that a clunker was "driven only by a little old lady on Sundays", and the lie pretty much remained between just a few people. Try lying about your products now, online, and see what happens.

Jumping The Gun
Do you know that old saying about when you’re angry, you should count to ten before responding? Perhaps the social media version should call for people to wait ten hours before responding. It’s a very natural, very human instinct to retaliate immediately or at the very least put up a rapid defence. The problem is, something written in the heat of anger will remain a part of the Internet forever. Even if you go back and change a hasty response, you can’t make everyone unsee the original post. The best way for people not to see a badly phrased knee-jerk response is by not posting it in the first place. Cool down, revisit the offending post, and come up with something civil.

Responding To Trolls
There are people out there on the Internet who love to stir things up. These are called trolls. Getting involved in an online argument with them is one of those blunders that ranks right up there with never getting involved in a land war in Asia, or go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. But seriously, by allowing yourself to get dragged into a verbal battle with trolls, you get into a no-win situation that only makes you look bad as well.

Being Insulting
Using insults and personal attacks, no matter how much you may think the offender deserves it, is not productive. You are lowering yourself to the level of your critics, and eventually it simply won’t matter to people about who started it, or who deserved it. All they’ll see is a distasteful exchange that doesn’t make either party look good. And let’s not even get into what can happen if someone who criticizes your business has an actual legitimate gripe, and the only response they get is a personal attack.

Not Knowing When To Walk Away
Instinctively, many people like to get in the last word. In some people’s estimation, having that last word means that they have somehow won the argument. But the problem is, many people who indulge in flame wars are perfectly capable of dishing it out for as long as anyone is foolish enough to respond and play along. Let your good reputation speak for itself, and make it a point to refuse to get baited into a prolonged exchange.

An Example Of Doing It Right
A friend of mine, a man named Victor, runs a professional haunted house called Ghoulie Manor. Recently, he and his cast were invited to appear at a Providence, Rhode Island arts festival that was focusing on horror writer HP Lovecraft, so the theme of this city event was horror. Vic and his cast came in costume and makeup, and joined with the other horror-themed participants, and all was well.

That is, until Vic got an e-mail from an irate parent. An e-mail that began with the words "Dear Assholes". Already, this was off to a bad start. Apparently, the small child of the letter writer was upset by the scary people in costumes, and even after the family went home, the child was still frightened. The parent went on to say that he prayed that the Ghoulie Manor people would suffer the same sort of unpleasantness as well.

Rather than ripping into the parent, Vic responded with a courteous, professional letter, indicating that he and his staff never try to scare small children, and he apologized for any trouble. He also pointed out that the entire event was horror-based, and made a gentle observation that if he himself had a four year old child, he wouldn’t take the child to such an event.

The irate parent wrote back, apologizing and taking back all the unpleasant things he had written. He and his wife were unaware of the horror theme, and if they had known about it, they indeed wouldn’t have brought their child to the event.

By not screaming back at the parent, Vic defused the situation and may have actually won over a pair of possible customers (provided the kid stays at home!).


John Terra has been writing freelance since 1985 covering social media and online reputation management. He has worked for three different startups and has the gray hairs to prove it.
Photo credit: stephenpoff

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    I think that your perspective is deep, its just well thought out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts down so well.

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  • John Terra

    Thanks! Some of the stuff here came from learning it the hard way! :)

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