The Power of Our Words.

I love social media. My iPhone is never far from me. The ability to create and maintain a business page on Facebook has greatly increased the number of new/potential clients I am able to reach, and I love that I can feel connected to my existing brides through photos and messages posted on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I am a firm believer that social media can have a positive impact on our lives.

This week I wanted to quit Facebook. I wanted to walk away from all the drama that it can create. Here’s why. In the pre-social media days, if you had an issue with an individual or a business, you confronted them face-to-face and worked collaboratively on finding a solution. Sure you might complain about the business to a few friends. You might even boycott the business temporarily. Maybe you would feel justified because you felt ripped off. Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re wrong.

Today, however, social media has become the go-to outlet for personal expression, offering disgruntled customers an opportunity to rant and rave about an individual or business without having to experience the discomfort or awkwardness of a face-to-face confrontation. The result is that people end up saying things online that they would never, ever dream of saying to a business owner’s or employee’s face. These individuals need to be reminded that words, regardless of whether they‘re written or spoken, have the ability to cut, and to cut deep. Talking from personal experience, written and spoken words can and do have a direct and lasting impact on the livelihood of small business owners. People tend to forget that small businesses are run by actual people; people who have their time, money, and family all tied up in that business; people with feelings who cannot help but take insults against their business personally.

A while back I received a bad review from a customer I had personally worked with for over two hours. I felt we made a connection. I enjoyed working with this bride. I helped her find what I thought was a beautiful, flattering gown for her big day. After the appointment she went home and had second thoughts about her purchase. Maybe it made it real for her, maybe she didn’t think it should be or would be so easy, I don’t know. She picked up her gown a couple weeks later, tried it on again and realized she loved it and had made a good choice. But in between her first and return visits, this bride wrote a negative review about our store online, saying we were pushy. Perhaps this bride’s insecurities regarding her purchase made her feel justified in bad-mouthing us on the web.

I’ve been in business long enough to know that bad reviews happen. But this one hurt. I took it personally. Why hadn’t she called me or emailed me? Why hadn’t she come back into the store immediately and tried the gown on again? Why didn’t she let me know that she was having second thoughts? Was I supposed to call her the next day and ask if she still liked her gown she bought the day before? I wrote her a note following the appearance of her review and she graciously removed it, which I am so grateful for. But the sting was still there. Who else read that review and now doubts my ability to do my job well? Are other brides having second thoughts and not communicating them with me? Pick up the phone. Text me. Email me. Get in touch and I’m happy to help.

Am I saying that we should never, ever use social media to vent or rant about our feelings or experiences? Absolutely not. What really upsets me is when I see people discussing personal matters between a small business and themselves online before they’ve actually talked to the business first. Be courteous and give the business an opportunity to resolve the issue before venting online. Give them a chance to make things right or help you. When you purchase from a small business or have an interaction with them you are forming and developing a relationship with them. If you had a fight with your spouse or significant other, would you head over to the rant page or to your spouse’s Facebook page to discuss the fight or cause drama with them? I certainly hope not. All I’m asking is that you show the same respect for the small business owner.

Am I saying that the small business owner is always right or justified by her decisions? Absolutely not. We’re human. We make mistakes. We get up every day and we work hard, just like you do. Running a small business is hard. It’s extremely time consuming. Everyday you have to make decisions that effect your business. You have to wear so many hats - accountant, sales person, head of human resources, chief marketer, etc. And now we have to spend a great deal of time ensuring that no one is saying untrue or nasty things about us online.

So I encourage you, dear citizen, to challenge yourself to speak first with the individual or business that you feel has wronged you before taking to the web with false or nasty comments. If you’ve truly had a horrible experience with a business and found them unwilling to acknowledge or correct their mistake once confronted with it, then stick to the facts and be professional when writing your review. Think twice before using vulgar language and making personal attacks. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable with your child saying it to you when they disagree with you, then don’t say it. Words are powerful weapons that can do lasting damage, so let’s choose and wield our words wisely. Because at the end of the day, small business owners are people too.