Avoiding Social Media Mistakes in Small Biz

These days, using social media to build your small business may seem like a no-brainer, but there are reasons for owners to be cautious. After all, social networking snafus have caused many people to lose their jobs. What’s to say similar hiccups won’t hurt your business?

In fact, there are already examples where mismanagement of social media has afforded businesses some decidedly negative attention. Earlier this month, Amy’s Baking Company, a restaurant in Scotsdale, Ariz., received a wave of negative PR when owner Amy Bouzalgo responded to an unfavorable Yelp! review by calling the writer, among other things, a “tramp,” “loser” and “moron” in her own Yelp review.

Big brand Coca-Cola (Stock Quote: KO) received its own basket of bad press in July when a misguided Dr Pepper promotion unwittingly made direct reference to a hardcore pornographic film … on a 14-year-old girl’s Facebook wall. And the New York Times certainly had some explaining to do when a hack of one of its blogs’ Twitter account advertised some affordable naked webcam action back in May.

But these potential drawbacks shouldn’t dissuade small businesses from launching a social media campaign. After all, it can be one of the most cost-effective ways to both promote and build your business. However, there are some things you need to consider before attempting to go viral.

“Social media and customer service go hand in hand,” Nathaniel Perez, who heads social marketing for customer experience company SapientNitro, tells MainStreet. “Being on a social network does not solve a product problem.”

Perez explains that businesses need to understand the types of exposure big networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Myspace, provide. Nestle, for example, was probably reconsidering the creation of its Facebook page after news broke that one of its palm oil suppliers Sinar Mas was destroying protected Indonesian rainforests. The retailer was subsequently bombarded with complaints and criticism via both of its pages that lasted well beyond the readily-issued March apology.   

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