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Sarah Haston: Do you have to hate on social media with rants?

Sarah Haston • Updated Jun 22, 2018 at 12:00 PM

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hen you choose to shop local and dine local you choose to support your community and make a positive economic impact. When you choose to rant on social media about a negative experience, you are choosing to make a negative impact on your local economy. 

Did you know you can play a vital role in our local economy? You can show your support for our community when you choose to shop and dine in Lebanon. Small businesses are the foundation of our economy, and our community thrives on the fact that our residents either work at a small business or own a small business. 

Shopping and dining locally is an opportunity to support your friends, your neighbors and people who are growing our economy every day, as well as support local initiatives and organizations. 

So what happens when you choose to share a negative experience with the world on social media?

Last week in a meeting, social media was discussed, and the high number of negative comments about bad service at local restaurants and the lack of quality. I didn’t want to listen, because I cringe when I read something negative about our community on social media. Yes, my background is marketing, and I understand the value of social media and open communication. I understand everyone wants to have a voice and give his or her opinion. And yes, I think that is great. 

However, social media rankings and reviews, as well as negative comments, make it extremely difficult for a local business that is trying to thrive, make a living and stay open. It also makes it difficult for someone like myself who is trying to market our community to grow. 

Imagine if every bad experience was reported online? It would be difficult for business to survive. I am not excusing bad service or careless behavior. I firmly believe we should all, including businesses, put our best foot forward all of the time. With today’s labor demands, it is common for a business to struggle with the right employees. 

We all need to work together to train more, listen more and educate our employees on quality control and protect our brand with our experiences. Will the better restaurants prevail? Probably. We, however, need our local businesses to sustain. We have some gems in Lebanon and, yes, sometimes you are going to have things go wrong, but if you experience a one-off night because of a new employee or you have bad service – just politely let management know and try again. 

There is not a need here for a social media rant. I know I was raised with the idea – if I don’t have anything nice to say, don’t speak. In today’s culture, this thought process doesn’t apply to social media. It is not my place to say this is wrong or right, but I will say I am overwhelmed with all of the negativity out there. I am simply tired of all of the negativity in my social media newsfeeds in multiple platforms. 

What happened to second chances? We all make mistakes. So as a fellow consumer, I ask you this…before you click “post” ask yourself, is this experience positive and should I share it or is it negative and would actually cause more harm than good?

And who is really to blame here? 

It seems so easy to say the employees today don’t care; they are not qualified and they are not trained. That might be true – I don’t know. I have experienced all of the above. Although, I must also say at some point we, as the consumer, must accept some form of responsibility with our want-it-now, want-it-our-way attitude and this desire to share our version of our experience with others. 

What we do not think about is the outcome of this shared experience, or do we? If our intention is to indeed throw salt, please think again. It might just be the situation is missing a little understanding and a lack of compassion. 

If you are a business that struggles with negative social media posts, I encourage you to go back to the basics. Today, your brand is determined by your consumer, so how can you as the owners evolve with these expectations?  

Ask yourself:

• What is my onboarding process?

• Do I continually offer education?

• Do I have a competitive salary packages to hire a higher-caliber staff?

• Does my management team respect our company culture?

• Are my employees engaged with our mission, vision and values?

• Am I managing my social media on a consistent basis?

• Am I managing my current customers’ expectations so they come back and provide referrals?

• When was the last time I observed my employees interact with customers?

• When was the last time I asked my employees and customers for feedback?

 We can all contribute to the local sustainability of our businesses. We must love Lebanon as our home and show respect to our friends, neighbors and ourselves. Make an effort to be positive and share your positivity with others. We must continue to always #ThinkLebanonFirst.

Sarah Haston is economic development director in Lebanon.  

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