Though social media can be a tool for business growth and expansion, they are not free of marketing wars and business bullying tactics. The outcomes can be devastating, especially for small, local businesses.
On Nov. 29, Fox 8 in Cleveland reported on a social media incident in which restaurant Barley House received hundreds of negative reviews on Yelp and even received insults and threats to employees after asking two known media personalities to leave a restricted area. Rival businesses also call for social media attacks on competitors in order to gain a competitive edge. They rally support of those on their Facebook page, urging them to leave a company negative reviews and comments as a way of destroying a company’s reputation.
Kayla Munion, of Wheelersburg, who runs an online craft store says she has personally seen how social media wars can escalate beyond marketing wars.
Munion, who is a mother of two, says she started her business shortly after having her son approximately four years ago. Her grandmother had taught her to crochet when she was only 8-years-old. While she was out on maternity leave from work, she made some baby items for her son. Munion says quickly people were asking her to make things for their babies.
Munion now sales crocheted items through social media. Her business has an Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and an Etsy site. Though she occasionally has orders from across the country, she says the vast majority of her sales are local with her selling items on Facebook.
Munion explained that she usually has enough orders to keep her busy, especially at this time of year when crocheted items are more popular.
“This is the start of my busy season,” Munion stated.
However, a run in with another area business has brought turmoil to not only her business but to her family.
Munion explained that her family has always gone to the same photographer for all of their photography needs from senior pictures to wedding and even family photos. In June, she had messaged the photographer asking if he had any specials and set up a Saturday appointment to have family pictures taken with her husband, son and daughter. The day of the appointment, Munion says the photographer contacted her just as she was leaving her house to have the photos taken and asked to more her appointment to the next day, which she agreed to.
Though she says she paid for the photos in full on the day of the appointment, Munion says when she went to pick up the photos, they said she still owed a $15 bill. Munion says that when she questioned the additional charge, the employee she was talking to was rude and unprofessional. Still, the problem was resolved and Munion continued to enjoy the services of the business.
On Nov. 12, she says she again messaged the photographer asking about some Christmas special and wanting to know price options. Munion says the photographer said he would post the prices the next day but did not. So, she tried to call and ask and also schedule an appointment. After several days, she had not heard back. Finally, Munion says she was able to speak with someone and set up an appointment on Nov. 20, but the soonest they could schedule her photos would be for Dec. 9.
After making the appointment, Munion says the photographer made a post saying Christmas special would end on Dec. 1. Confused about pricing, she again reached out to the photographer on social media. Munion says her question was met with a rude response and an even ruder post about her inquiry on his Facebook page.
This is when the battle began. Upset with the service she had received, Munion says she went on to the photographer’s business page on Facebook and changed the positive review she had left after having photos done in June to a negative review. She also posted screenshots of her conversations with him in order to show that she had not acted in any way that she felt should illicit rude responses.
Munion says quickly the photographer and his employees were leaving negative reviews on her business page, despite never actually being her customer. In the reviews, people claimed they never received their orders and other issues. However, she keeps a record of customer accounts and never received orders from the people leaving reviews. Munion says people were even making fake accounts in order to leave her negative reviews.
The fallout was not isolated to her business page. Munion said at one point there were more than 500 comments on her personal page where the photographer’s friends and employees would not only attack her business but would also attack her weight, insult her children and threaten her husband. The battle went beyond social media as the photographer’s employees started calling Munion’s husband’s employer making claims against him.
Still, she says though the experience has been hard on her family, the social media blitzkrieg did not devastate her business.
“I guess there is really no such thing as bad publicity,” she stated.
Munion says all of the attention to her business on Facebook has brought traffic to her page where people are seeing the items she makes. Since the situation began, Munion says she has had several big orders placed. Still, the stress is a problem as she explained that the attack has not passed as she expected. Her husband received calls at work as recently as Monday.
“All I did was give a bad review after several negative experiences. Just stop already,” Munion stated.
She explained that the attack has been overwhelming because, as was also the case in Cleveland, the attacking business had a larger social media following and bigger public persona, making such attacks difficult for smaller companies to combat.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.