Social Media Risks for Small Businesses

You’ve been doing the research on expanding your business to social media.  That includes identifying your goals, identifying your target market, identifying the best social platform to meet your goals and identifying the best metrics to use for measuring success.   We’ve talked a lot about why it’s so important to get your business onto social but now let’s take a look at some of the risks.

To delete or not delete, that is the question…
A great question of concern for small businesses is whether or not to delete feedback or problems posted from customers on platforms such as Facebook and or Twitter.  This tactic comes from the fear in believing that customers who come to your Facebook page will turn away because of reading a bad experience or complaint from another customer.  Let me say that deleting such comments is risky business as it can give the appearance that your brand is trying to hide something.  It takes away an aspect of transparency, trust and honest relationship with your customers.  Before resorting to such tactics think about how your customers will feel, respond and look to your company based on reading a bad experience from a customer which was responded to with empathetic customer support and a solution for correcting the experience. In that scenario customers will see that you have the capacity and transparency to take care of them.  This results in greater trust and a healthier relationship with your audience.  Are there severe cases where a customer complaint should be deleted?  Yes, but use good judgement in making that decision.  A case where things may have gotten verbally abusive, absolutely.  But a case where a customer is clearly and rightfully upset, frustrated or disheartened about a brand experience, you owe it to your brand and your customers to socially hear, support and share a resolution for that customer’s experience (Goldman, 2012).

A Case Study & Questions
Back in 2008, musician Dave Caroll had his $3,500 guitar broken while flying with United Airlines.  He tried to use traditional means of customer support with no success and then decided to take his complaint to social media.  He posted 3 music videos to Youtube based on his experience with the airline which went viral capturing over 10 million views.   After 3 – 4 weeks of the video American Airlines stock dropped by 10%, a loss of $180 million.  Based on the video tactics of Mr. Caroll the airlines did offer to compensate him for his loss.  His response to them was to donate it to charity as by this time for him it was no longer about the money.  Instead, it was about the principle of not being heard as a customer the first time around (Wilson, 2011).

The irony in this case was the company or brand who made his guitar saw an opportunity and took it.  Along with their sympathy and support they sent the musician a brand new guitar.  The company, Taylor Guitars, ended up making their own Youtube video about how unhappy they are when guitars are damaged and how to get in touch with them for repair services along with the best practices for packing and traveling with a guitar (Wilson, 2011).  A smart company!

Was it really worth American Airlines not taking care of Mr. Caroll for his loss early on?  What did it possibly cost them as a brand?  Was it worth the bad publicity?  Let me know your thoughts!

The moral of the story? 
Social Media is powerful.  It can either make or break your business.  As a small business know that it’s ok to make mistakes that may show up on social platforms.  Don’t wait until those problems become bigger problems and don’t try to delete them to make them go away.  Be transparent, honest and supportive.  Your social audience will reward you for it.


Goldman, J. (2012). Going Social: Excite Customers, Generate Buzz, and Energize Your Brand with the Power of Social Media. Saranac Lake, NY, USA: AMACOM Books. Retrieved from

Wilson, R. (2011).  A public relations disaster.  Blog.  Retrieved from