The influx of social media attacks have forced small businesses to focus more energy and resources to protecting their brands, said Richard Levick, CEO of public relations firm LEVICK.
“Comet Pizza situation is so emblematic of what this challenge means for small business,” he said. Comet Pizza was recently under fire from a large swath of internet trolls who repeatedly attacked the establishment on social media, culminating with a man showing up to the restaurant with a gun in December.
“Whereas fake news is nothing new, the internet revolution has made the speed, power, and alienation so powerful that companies of all sizes have to be thinking about what they’re doing,” to protect themselves, Levick said.
Levick recommends mitigation tactics to prevent overwhelming the business with bad reviews.
“So what is your local newspaper or business paper, your business journal, going to say? That’s helpful for getting some truth out,” he said.
His second tip was to stay active on social media.
“Are you on Twitter? Are your customers seeing you on Facebook? You want to be able to communicate the truth effectively,” said Levick.
The third piece of advice is to identify your allies. “You always want to know your allies, and know them before you need them. They’re your customers, they’re former customers,” and many other community leaders, he said. “Having them now and having those relationships is extremely helpful.”
He also asked small businesses to pursue the production of video content.
“If you have videos of your establishment, and you have it on the web, it’s much more likely to be found than that negative, false news,” he said “You can do this on your cell phone, you can join Twitter for free, you can join Facebook for free.”
“You want to be thinking about how is it I convey my messages, not with facts, but with emotion. And that’s why pictures are so helpful, that’s why third parties — the customers, the other members of the community — are so helpful,” he noted.
“The worlds of commerce, entertainment and politics have merged,” he said. “I think small business owners who are thinking only about entertainment and commerce need to increase their understanding of some of the political issues here.”
Levick recommended learning more about social media, and reaching out to young people comfortable with new platforms. “They understand Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and they can give you that kind of 10-minute tutorial,” on all types of platforms.