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Social media: Pros/cons

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, Foursquare, Google Plus, blogging. The dizzying list of social media outlets seems to be increasing exponentially on a daily basis. Being in business used to be a matter of word of mouth and maybe a newspaper or radio ad. In today’s day and age, if you aren’t playing the ever changing game of social media, you aren’t in business.

I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me wants to just do my work and then sit down and read a good book, but the other part of me knows that I have to engage with people in order for my business to succeed. And so, I do.

It has had its pros and cons. I have learned to make peace with it and to try to find some enjoyment out of it. On a personal front, it has allowed me to reconnect with long lost friends and to keep in touch with family who live in different time zones. On a professional front, it enables me to stay in touch with guests and other innkeepers and to get feedback from other industry professionals. For example, a month or so ago my food processor had died, and I was at wits end with trying to find one that lasted for more than six months. So I put out a post to all my chef friends asking what the best food processor was that was durable and long lasting. They all recommended the Vita Mix, and so I went out and got one. It works like a charm.

On the down side, there are issues of privacy that you open yourself up to by participating. Your life in essence is an open book. You can be fairly careful about what you share and how, but it still opens you up to the possibility of getting the attention of the wrong people or of getting backlash for what may have seemed to be an innocent comment. I find that people are apt to say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face. Sometimes decency and kindness get thrown out the window, and it can become quite ugly.

All in all though, I say the pros outweigh the cons, and there are a handful of rules I try to live by when I’m posting, blogging or tweeting. We all make mistakes sometimes, but they are ideals to try to aspire to. Rule 1: Think twice before posting. If it’s not something you’d feel comfortable saying to someone’s face than you shouldn’t post it.

Rule 2: Try to keep on topic. If you are a restaurant for example, post things related to restaurants and food.

Rule 3: Be true to yourself. No matter how careful you want to be to not offend anyone, people will respect you if you are true to yourself. The key is to make positive statements about what you believe in without being derogatory to the opposite point of view.

Rule 4: Don’t post about being away from your house or place of business for an extended period of time. There are too many predators out there looking for a window of opportunity to take advantage of this kind of information.

Rule 5: Nobody cares that you just ate a banana or are reading a newspaper article about social media. This kind of information doesn’t engage others to interact with you. Post things that elicit a response. Part of the battle of making social media effective in terms of marketing is getting people to read your posts and in turn prompting them to engage in conversation.

A final thought on social networking ... Don’t fret. If someone gets offended by something, don’t go on the defensive. The best way to handle it is to be polite. Apologize for offending and then agree to disagree. Most people respect the apology and are happy their thoughts were heard and respected.

Now, let’s go socialize!

Monika Sudakov is the chef and innkeeper at the Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield. She can be reached at monikaandjeff@chestnut-inn.com.

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