Social Media Can’t Replace PR or Common Sense

Jan 2012

At the nexus of PR and social media is a vague netherworld of publicity.  You can go by the old axiom of “any publicity is good publicity” or approach things in a calculated, genuine and real manner.  PR professionals use social media and social media professionals need to use PR, especially when it comes to small business.

This lesson was dealt to a small business in Atlanta called Boners BBQ.  The motto for Boners is “put a little south in your mouth”.  It’s a cheeky name with a light sexual innuendo as a motto, so you know that you’ll be eating someplace akin to Hooters.  The food will probably be OK, but won’t win any awards and isn’t a good place for a first date.

Boners had a special with Scoutmob, a group online couponing service that allowed people to eat for substantially less than regularly.  One customer took advantage of the Scoutmob deal that supposedly didn’t leave a tip.  The customer says she left a tip, but Boners said that she didn’t leave a tip.  When the customer got home they left a negative review of Boners on Yelp.

The reason all of this came to light is that Boners complained about the customer on their Facebook page.  Boners took the issued one step further and posted a picture of the customer, warned other restaurants against serving this person and cursed her out.

After Boners posted that information a veritable twitter and Facebook storm erupted.  Media from around the world covered the story and there were multiple interviews with the owner of Boners on television.  It was during all of this negative publicity the owner publically apologized on their Facebook page and asked for the customer to come back and try the food again.

Obviously, the owner of Boners reacted in a harsh and inappropriate way to the negative review.  However, the story also highlights the power of social media.  One little BBQ restaurant in Atlanta tries to conduct PR through social media, fails epically and get worldwide negative attention.

What could the owner of Boners BBQ done differently?

Lastly, hire a social media company or if you find your business in a negative firestorm seek professional PR help.  If you have a business then your business if your business.  The owner of Boners said that he couldn’t afford advertising so he was using social media to get the word out.

Social media is not advertising.  Social media is about building relationships and sharing information.  It’s a slow, gradual process that you need to factor into your time and expenses in order to make it work.

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