For local businesses, your online presence is often the only way to get to know your organization outside of visiting the establishment. Potential customers will look at reviews and your Facebook page to find out if your business is worth patronizing. Current customers want to connect with you through social media platforms. Being online is important, but maintaining a positive virtual reputation is even more crucial. Don’t mess it up by making some of these mistakes!

1. Not handling criticism well. The chances are that your establishment is not perfect. This means you are going to get some negative feedback. With a large social presence, criticism can come through on many different channels. How you react to that criticism can make or break your online reputation.

The best method to handling criticism well is to respond to it in a timely manner and as politely as possible. Don’t take it personally. Saying something along the lines of “Thank you for alerting us to this problem. We’ll look into it,” or “We’re sorry you had a bad experience. We’ll do better next time!” is appropriate. You are allowed to ignore some types of criticism, but do not delete it off of your company’s page (unless it is inappropriate). Think of negative feedback as an opportunity: as a business, you can’t always see what a customer can. Listen to them!

2. Begging for likes, shares, or views. Companies that only post statuses begging for audience interaction annoy their target customers really fast. They quickly become unliked, unfollowed, or hidden from view. Internet surfers use social media as a place to relax, interact with friends, and be entertained. They don’t want to be bombarded with your pleas for business. Sending messages that ask for more likes, shares, or views is the equivalent of a one-sided conversation. Engage your fans by asking questions and starting a conversation. Entertain them.

3. Posting too much. Incessant posts are another great way to get yourself unfollowed. Social media users don’t even like it when their friends post constantly – why would they like it if you did it? You need a steady online presence so that your fans won’t forget you, but don’t badger them.

4. Pulling publicity stunts. The latest social media move on the part of Chipotle was to pretend that they were hacked on Twitter. Their Twitter account sent out multiple posts that contained nothing but nonsense, almost as if someone had accidentally used a voice command that would publish what they were saying. Later, Chipotle admitted it was intentional, claiming that it was a publicity move. Stunts like this can help you gain lots of fans in a short period of time. But those fans came to see the train wreck, not to support your business. After the publicity stunt is over, you will lose most of those followers. The ones you do retain will not convert into sales in large numbers. Instead of tricking fans into following you, be genuine and honest.