Going viral- Be very wary of getting into politics
Not just about politics often a problem for restaurants ends up being a bad health inspection report getting into the media as more and more government entities put the information online. For one of our customer’s a few years back it was an alleged abuse of a pet by the restaurant’s son which dragged the restaurant into unwanted publicity.
Facebook reviews and comments by the thousands appear everywhere. Before the reviews were closed 91,000 people weighed in on Facebook alone. None of this includes Yelp, Google Reviews, Trip Adviser and all the other review sites.
The restaurant in question blew their crisis management. With a personal email address on the website the owner’s email got hit with thousands of emails. Email addresses never belong on websites. Use encoded forms to prevent anyone getting access to email accounts, a good idea anyway to prevent robots snagging an email address to send spam.
The restaurant also promotes local farms and a vineyard sources on their website all of whom became targets for negative reviews within minutes.
Know what to do in the event of a social media crisis to make it through without the least damage to your company:
1. Make sure the web design team, either you or your webmaster, can respond immediately by adding an apology to the website to removing pages listing other businesses on the website to prevent fallout to them.
2. Keep all email addresses off websites. With over 91,000 reviews image the owners sorting through the emails at the restaurant in Virginia for needed business emails and the nightmare changing one’s email address with everyone.
3. Use smart contact forms. Pegasus Ventures uses a third party to power contact forms on customer websites. As a web designer with some experience in “form” spam we tend to limit submissions by blocking people in foreign countries from using the forms and implementing rules to prevent the same person sending more than one message each day along with a number of other robust capabilities available.
4. Think ahead when it comes to including personal profiles on the website. Use personal profiles with links to Facebook pages for a personality not personal Facebook accounts. Facebook personality, or public figure, pages work great to separate work from personal also keeping troubled people away by allowing them to interact on the public personality Facebook page.
5. Know how to use Facebook. A reliable social media manager or staffer removes the “customer review” tab as well as changes the settings to require comments to be approved before appearing on the Facebook page thwarting bad actors. These fixes take seconds and temporarily blocks angry people looking to punish a business and supportive people wanting to get the angry people.
6. Make sure you control your Google My Business account. Almost anyone can change the phone number and than claim the listing. Reviews can’t be controlled but losing that listing creates all kinds of nightmares for people looking on the web for your business in the future.
7. Be aware of other businesses linking on your website. In the incident in Virginia the one side not only tagged reviews for the restaurant they tagged every single supplier mentioned on the website giving each of those businesses a number of 1 star ratings specifically mentioning the restaurant. Several days later all the suppliers were off their website.
8. Think really, really, really hard before speaking to the media. More often than not it’s better to say nothing to prevent any chance someone in the media may portray the story far worse not to mention taking the real chance of extending the volume of attention. For every positive story look for someone else to spin it in the opposite direction.
Business and Politics- a few words
The example used here doesn’t speak to our politics. Politics and business don’t mix at Pegasus Ventures. Really, one wonders anything if gained with a media hungry for viral stories.
The restaurant outside Washington, DC made a choice and caused problems for suppliers and others associated with the company while also forcing the closure of the restaurant for more than a week. Every single supplier mentioned on their website took hits in Facebook reviews. Imagine how happy those people felt in the fallout.
When first looking at their Facebook page after the news broke they’d had about 1600 reviews. Less than six hours later that number was over 76,000 reviews. 38,000 were one-star reviews, and 36,000 were 5-star reviews. By the next morning the number of reviews exceeded 91,000 before the restaurant shut down finally shut down reviews after about 48 hours.
91,000….Think about that number.
Your business, your choice but politics these days generates lots of emotion. A relatively small vocal segment of the population with viral media hitting tens of millions of people looking for always looking something viral which triggering people to act on both and all sides. The numbers are small in a country of over 320 million but who needs 91,000 people either liking or disliking a small business fighting it out on a national stage over something said or done to anyone.
Some business owners see controversy as good for business. In the short run, maybe. We see, even today, a positive newspaper review brings in lots of new people. However, imagine the crush of even the supporters suddenly coming to visit. Can the demand even be met? What long term impact happens if that demand can’t be met?
Maybe it’s nice to bring in more people through controversy but as the novelty wears off those people float away and the people preferring to avoid restaurants owners seen as a bit “radical” took a look around while the fur flew and an owner enjoyed a moment in the glare of publicity.
2020 Update at the Red Hen in Lexington
Fast forwarding 2 years updating this blog post 126,044 people follow The Red Hen in Lexington.
Over the last couple of years the restaurant made a bucket of money selling aprons, hat and their “signature spice blend” for a while. Those sales tapered off.
The Red Hen removes negative posts and blocks people posting negative comments on Facebook.
Imagine the work that takes with thousands of people following the page waiting to take a shot. Every time the Red Hen posts some of the tens of thousands of people following the page post something negative and, one at a time, those people need to be blocked.
Facebook reviews no longer show on the restaurant’s page. Despite Facebook removing the flood of bad reviews, they never stopped once the national attention passed.
Google also removed the torrent of reviews but as the moment passed the restaurant Google reviews continues to gain negative reviews scoring 2.7 of 5 stars.
While the Roanoke Times reports little impact on local tourism, a year after the incident they talked about some of the impact on the restaurant:
The restaurant’s phone line was hacked, fake Yelp reviews caused its rates to plummet and dozens of people made fake reservations. The Red Hen closed for 10 days as national media converged on Lexington. President Donald Trump joined in on Twitter to call the restaurant dirty.
Think long and hard before choosing to take a political stand with your business.
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