Editorial | Social Media like Word of Mouth on Steroids; Caution Urged when Comes to Local Businesses

Let’s face it. Sometimes the online world of social media can be tough, especially in an instant world where anyone and social mediaeveryone is the commentator and the spectator.

Gone are the days of carefully written newspaper and magazine business reviews.  They’ve been replaced by Yelp and Facebook where everyone is a critic and not everything is carefully worded. There’s no editor to say, “Are you sure that’s exactly how it happened?”

So when it comes to the hyperlocal, caution is urged.

Almost everyone has had a bad experience at a local business every now and then –  because everyone is different, with different expectations, and not everyone is perfect. I waitressed for a long time. I tried to be great. I prided myself on it,  but I’ll admit I had a few bad nights while I worked through two pregnancies. I forgot to put  a ticket or two in. Your food took forever. I screwed up.

In today’s online world, people often pay more attention to the bad than the good. Our society seems to feed on the critical, the scandal, the drama.

I recently read a really bad review of a local business. It was placed on a neighborhood social media page with over a thousand followers. I was intrigued because I frequent the establishment and had never had anything similar occur. In fact, I had just been to the same place that same day, and had a very pleasant experience.

So I read on. I commented to say my experience was great and we would not boycott this business as the poster was encouraging community members to do as it leveled the business with harsh claims.

I commented because I know it’s hard to run a small business in a small community – and people should hear the good along with the bad.  And let’s not forget, there’s two sides to every story, right?  A perceived attempt to disparage a local establishment with only one side of the story just didn’t seem fair.

Many business owners in our community work hard, invest a lot of money and time. They give back to the community. They also employ residents, family members, working parents, single moms, kids working their way through college. These businesses are vital to our community infrastructure.

Stop. Think it through. Let the marketplace and the quality of the business determine who makes it is this Valley… not a brutal social media post. Or at consider taking the issue to Yelp (designed for reviews) or the business’s Facebook page which often times has section for reviews.

Word of mouth is key for businesses in small communities, but social media can be like word of mouth on steroids in a small town – and it can hurt small businesses.

In a world of “the customer is always right,” I would bet most businesses feel obligated to never, ever tell their side of it. But if they were allowed to, it would probably make an interesting expose.





Comments are closed.


  • I have to say that this article has intrigued me because of my experience with a local business I no longer frequent and my temptation to express my displeasure online. I have been there a few dozen times and have never had a pleasant experience. The owner has never greeted me, responded to my greeting, thanked me for my business, bid me farewell, responded to my farewell, nor even smiled. Each encounter, as I hand over money to support his business, seemed like a burden to him. A couple of his employees over the years are not so dour, but have obviously been trained by him and are little more friendly. I marvel that he’s remained in business, but that he provides a convenience that would otherwise mean a trip to Gilman with my packages.
    I haven’t brought my thoughts to a review site, but have been sorely tempted. This is not the normal case of having a bad day.

  • If my guess at the business is correct, I suggest you go in on Saturday when the owner isn’t there. I was surprised at the night/day difference in customer service coming from behind the counter.

  • You know, I’ve never been three on a Saturday. Still, I now prefer the highlands. They actually like my business.

  • You are missing the point, that if they had a bad experience, something was wrong. Posting that experience is important. The problem isn’t with the person making the post. The problem is with the reader who takes a single data point and assumes it’s true. A responsible reader takes all the points, good and bad, into consideration in their own decision to patronize the business or not.

  • Living Snoqualmie