The dangers of social media for small businesses

I don’t want to scare you but there are a few dangers that small businesses need to be aware of when getting involved in the social media labyrinth.

1. People are critical of bad products

Well, lets be honest. People are always critical of bad products its just that now they can talk about them on Twitter. If you provide a bad service or product you can be you will be flamed (chastised) on Twitter. Be ready for it.

The thing to realize here is that those people are already talking about you. It is therefore extremely important to get on and start talking to them, helping them and addressing their concerns.

2. Bad timing and poor planing can be deadly

A few months ago QANTAS, Australia’s national airline, grounded all its flights around the world due to ongoing industrial action. It left thousands of people stranded across the globe and a media storm unlike I have ever seen in Australia lasted for weeks.

Many people were angry at the CEO’s decision to ground the fleet, while others thought he had no other option and did the right thing. Shortly after this massive event (and a lot of negative PR) QANTAS launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #QantasLuxury saying:

“To enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury.”


Bad idea.

Qantas Twitter mistake
A few of the resulting Tweets from QANTAS’ Twitter competition.


Now, in case you don’t know, a Twitter hashtag is something you use when you want everyone involved to be reading the same thing. For example, you’ll often see hashtags about sporting events like the Super Bowl because the promoters want to get people talking in the same place.

And thanks to a website called Storify we can see a record of all thee nasty, mean and hilarious replies that QANTAS got as entries into this competition.

This is an extreme example of what can happen with bad timing and a poorly thought out campaign. This Twitter competition might have worked wonders if goodwill towards the company was not at such a temporary low (QANTAS is normally a much-loved Australian brand).


3. You can break the law

A lot of people forget that you can still break the law on the internet. And this can lead to you and your staff ending up in serious hot water.

Let’s take defamation as an example. If you go on Twitter and say something untrue about someone which results in their reputation being damaged you can be sued in court under libel laws.

Similarly, if you make untrue claims about your product you can come under fire for false advertising. This can lead to crippling fines.

Its important that you keep everything truthful and clean when on social media sites just like you would on a print or TV advert.

Social Media Tip:
You can avoid a lot of these problems by coming up with a social media policy for your business. Outline what can be talked about, which of your staff can talk on behalf of the business, whether personal social media accounts are allowed, who has access to passwords, etc. It might seem strict but it can save a lot of future dramas.


4. Privacy is an issue

Privacy concerns really need to be thought about before signing up to all of these sites and putting your name, age, location, etc. on the public record. Some people are paranoid about this stuff, others don’t seem to care. Have a think about how much you want people to know and set the boundaries early.