Avoiding a Social Media Nightmare

In 2013 there aired a famous episode of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares about an Arizona restaurant where the chef and owner of the restaurant rebuffed all of the advice dealt to them by the celebrity chef and insisted their food and restaurant conditions were perfect. Famously, Mr Ramsey threw down his apron and gave up on the Kitchen Nightmare for the very first time. The public storm that came after was unprecedented, the public weighed in with their harshest opinions, and most had never visited the venue, let alone the state of Arizona. Reviews were publicly posted with low star ratings on their Google pages, their Facebook filled with disgusted posts and Trip Advisor contributors warned diners to steer clear. The owners responded to many posts with outrage, refuting any claim by the social media mob that their food and service was any less than perfect. The restaurant closed its doors in 2015 after two years riding on the infamy brought on by their reality television experience.

There have been instances here in Australia where small businesses have had customer complaints go viral on social media and the crowd sourced outrage seems to be a growing trend.  As your customers are more and more likely to get behind the keyboard after any negative experience, you need to be prepared for dealing with complaints and compliments so you can come out of the experience with minimal damage.

Claim your page.

Make sure that your Facebook and Google listings are claimed by your business. Make sure all the details are kept up to date including your opening hours and public holiday availability. If you don’t have the capacity or budget to maintain an active social media presence, be sure to contribute to your page at least once a month. It will let potential customers know you are controlling and currently monitoring the page.

Get notifications.

Ensure any notifications that come through on social media can be responded to in a timely manner. If your business is named and shamed by a customer, you need to know about it and get on top of the situation ASAP. If you get a significant number of notifications in a short amount of time you may need to get online and respond right away.

Prepare a response.

Have a short response to any complaint or issue prepared. A simple response like ‘ Thank you for letting us know about this issue, if you could message us privately we would be pleased to resolve this with you directly’. Responding publicly in a defensive manner can backfire, you may find yourself the top story on Buzzfeed the next day.

Get help.

If you find yourself in an overwhelming situation of negativity, it would be wise to get advice from an agency or company that deals with social media management.


Sarah Irwin

SME Community Director at SavvySME

As a daughter of a small business owner I am passionate about helping small businesses grow. Passionate about innovation and seeing our community grow in order to help your business succeed. I have a background in small businesses and start up environmemts including Healthshare.com.au, Medicalsearch.com.au and industracom.com.au and am now the SME Community Director of SavvySME.com.au.


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John Eustace

John Eustace , Principal / Communications and Media Strategist at Bells and Whistles Marketing Pty Ltd

Point well made Sarah. A significant proportion of Australian business owners also miss the fact that almost all of the major on-line business directory sites have automatically established listing for their business. An increasing number are (or have already), enabled consumer rating and testimonial facilities to assist people using the directory to get other's comparative opinions on listed enterprises. Every business owner should Google their business name and visit all of the (up to 20+) directories that are likely to have auto listed them. Many have an “is this your business” feature enabling you to claim and manage its content. Make sure you monitor them all as even an obscure industry or professional association directory can be the catalyst for a viral attack and a commercially damaging result that is invariably difficult to recover from.

Simon Smith

Simon Smith , Owner at eVestigator Cyber Forensic IT-Expert Witness

If the complaint is vexatious, and fraudulent and not a real customer... There are businesses out there under US jurisdiction that allow any person to write any defamatory content, unverified, and will refuse to remove it, and don't have to under US law. In this area I specialise, and sadly you then have to: a) Not be scammed by the SRM companies that will promise to 'bury' the false post; b) Get a court order against the poster, sending it to the site, deeming it defamatory with no guarantee of it being removed; or c) Attempt to travel down the road of 'Duffy vs Google' and sue the search engine for defamation as it is now case law that Google is a secondary publisher in Australia only. There are many types of extortion companies out there that will claim to remove false complaints including the complaint company hosting the page itself. You should never resort to paying them. In other cases involving certain your own copy and pasted information in the complaint or images you , you can easily file a DMCA takedown notice if it infringes your copyright.