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Sarah Haston: Is local sustainability connected to social media rants?

Sarah Haston • Updated Apr 24, 2018 at 11:00 AM

With the topic of economic development we tend to focus on new business recruitment and new jobs… it is almost daily that I am asked “What’s new?” “What new restaurant do we have coming?” And these are important to myself, as well as the community at large, and I understand why I am asked. 

It is, however, also important to our community that we sustain the local businesses that we have here available to us. In economic development, we need to have a healthy balance of both, but I want everyone to understand how they can help contribute to this.

I was recently involved in a meeting where social media was a big topic, and as the discussion continued, negative comments were thrown around about bad service and a lack of quality. I struggled to listen to this as I cringe every time I read something negative about our community on social media. 

Now don’t get me wrong, my background is marketing, and I understand the value of social media and open communication. Today, everyone wants to have a voice and give his or her opinion. And yes, I think that is great. What I don’t think is great is when someone like myself is trying to market our community, it makes it harder when there is an overwhelming amount of negative comments about local places, as well as the local business that is trying to thrive, make a living and stay open.

Let me explain it this way… my family and I went out to dinner Friday night and had a terrible experience. It honestly couldn’t have been much worse. The order was wrong and only half of us received our order. The wait was incredibly long to receive our food, and what was brought was served cold and not cooked. Then, when I politely spoke to the general manager, it was more than obvious the gentleman was not even qualified to be in such a position. He didn’t know how to communicate with me; he didn’t know how to solve the problem, and he couldn’t even articulate an understanding of the situation. 

This incident was not the first time we have had such an experience, and I am not naïve to think it will be the last. Please note, however, I did not go on social media to rant and blast the restaurant, the food or the employees. I left it there in the restaurant after I conveyed my experience.

If every bad experience was reported online, a business would struggle getting customers into the door. Please don’t mistake this as me excusing their behavior and saying it’s OK. My point is that they are struggling with the right employees, too, just like many of you are. 

We are all in this together, and we have to work together to train more, listen more and educate our employees on quality control and protect our brand with our experiences. Now, I hear you saying out loud that the better restaurants will win – and yes they will, and that’s OK. At the same time – we need our local businesses to stay. We have some gems here in Lebanon and yes, sometimes you are going to have things go wrong, but if you experience a one off night because it’s a brand new employee or you have bad service – just politely let them know and try again. You don’t have to tell everyone you know with 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 isn’t my place to say this is wrong or right, but I will say I am overwhelmed with all the negativity out there. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the negative in my newsfeed. 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?

If you are a business struggling with negative social media post or trying to attract additional customers, I encourage you to go back to the basics. Ask yourself the following:

• What is my onboarding process?

• Do I continually offer education?

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

• Do I offer flextime?

• 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?

• Do I have a marketing strategy to attract new business?

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

• When was the last time I sat down and reviewed my business plan?

We have a responsibility not only as a consumer, but as a business owner, as well. We can all contribute to the local sustainability of our businesses. We must continue to always #ThinkLebanonFirst.

Sarah Haston is economic development director in Lebanon. 


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