How social media can damage your brand reputation in minutes

So you run an amazing business, you are growing your brand, you are starting to get amazing customers, you have loyal staff, you are known in your industry, things are bloody fantastic – and then you go and ruin it by posting a dubious question on social media.

What the heck am I talking about? How can a flippant question or comment, posted innocently in a Facebook group possibly damage your brand reputation?

Well – let me tell you how it works.

“You have a business dilemma, who you gonna’ call?”

Let’s say you don’t know how to deal with employees, or payroll, or GST, or invoicing, or tax returns – all of which are legal obligations a business owner must comply with (well providing you have staff and are registered for GST). But the others are still legal requirements in Australia.

So of course, because you are a tech savvy entrepreneur and are addicted to social media (go on – admit it – you totally can’t go more than ten minutes without checking Instagram, or Facebook….or doing a selfie on Snapchat), you decide to post your question on Facebook. Perhaps in one of the many groups you are a part of.

So it goes something like this…..

“Hi gang. So I have a dilemma. I have been charging my customers GST when I am not registered….so basically I am getting and extra 10% income which I am not reporting as income….as I just assumed I had to charge GST. What do I do – do I just ignore this. Do I refund it….I am tempted to ignore it – it is free money right? Better in my pocket :)”

Yes – people write these kinds of things in Facebook groups and they do not think of the consequences. Here are my issues with people writing these kinds of questions on Facebook (and trust me, this is only the start, we have seen lot’s worse):

1.You are admitting to the world you are breaking the law. Sometimes, it might be a small issue, other times it can be a very big issue. Do you know how many journalists are part of various business Facebook groups trying to find the next big story. Well congratulations, you might just make the newspapers – but not for something positive.

2. How would you feel if someone aired your dirty laundry without your permission? What if your staff are in those Facebook groups – and let’s just say you posted about the fact you are underpaying your staff and how proud you were that you were saving so much money because they had no idea what they should be getting paid? How quickly do you think they will resign, lodge a complaint with Fair Work Australia and leave you in a big pile of “holy heck I am in over my head”.

3. Big Brother is always watching. If you think your comments can’t be traced back to your business think again. If you are a sole trader, your Facebook name can easily be searched on the Australian Business Register. Some business owners make the audit trail even easier, linking their business name in their profile. So with one swift click I (and many others) have worked out what your business is and now I (and others) potentially think you are totally dodgy.

4. How you react to feedback in those groups also reflects on you as a business owner. Often, we try to help – why wouldn’t we? We hate for you to get into a pickle over anything to do with the ATO. But often, when we try to help the response we get is nothing short of a slap in the face. We get told to mind our own business, what they do is nothing to do with me and to butt out. Well I am sorry, but if you are breaking the law we just like to help. HELP. You know – help you get out of the big pile of shit you are about to get yourself in. But by being rude, aggressive and selfish gains no respect from me (or anyone) at all.

5. Once you say it you can’t unsay it. It is a common saying – but bloody hell do people forget this? What you write on social media is not “gone” just because you deleted a post. Or because you wrote it last week and you can no longer find it in your news feed does not mean it didn’t happen. People can take screen shots for evidence and use that evidence however they like. Sure, you would hope people don’t dob you in for honest mistakes, but you have no idea what anyone else will do with your guilty admission, so perhaps it is best to seek qualified professional advice instead of writing your guilty plea on Facebook.

6. The help you getting may not actually be helpful. Kind of reverse logic right? But when you post in the land of social media you get all kinds of “experts” offer their opinion. But is their opinion quantified – or just their opinion? Is their opinion correct legal information – or just their opinion? Is their opinion increasing your pile of shit because they are just basing their information on what they got told by a friend of a friend of a friend? When asking for financial and ATO advice, go straight to the people who can legally help. Accountants, Tax Agents and BAS agents. Did you know we have an ebook that costs $24.95 which has over 150 questions in it already answered for you?

Don’t get me wrong – we are social media addicts ourselves. We love Facebook (and most other social media platforms), however we see far too often incorrect information being readily available and business owners relying on it. We see far too often the legal consequences of people admitting breaches of payroll and income tax/GST legislation nearly every week.

Juicy and controversial information is like hitting the jackpot for a journalist. Don’t become their next target. Maybe one of our one hour virtual financial coaching sessions can get your over your hurdle, before becoming front page news for all the wrong reasons.

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