By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Viewers flocked to Blue Canoe Facebook page on Thursday after owner Adam Morgan posted what some would consider a somewhat strongly worded statement about a policy at his restaurant.
The post, in part, read, “Notice: If you come into your local Blue Canoe and ask us to just choose a beer for you and you don’t like it, guess what? We’re going to charge you for it. …We even give free draft samples of anything, so there’s not even really an argument.”
The post sparked more than 200 likes and more than 100 comments and elicited more than 11,000 hits on the page that usually averages about 1,500 hits a day.
The incident is one of many recent examples of how social media is changing the way businesses interact with customers. Morgan said he just intended to state a policy at the Blue Canoe and was surprised by the reaction he got.
Morgan said although there was an incident that motivated him to make the post, it was not directed at any one person and the issue had come up before.
“I’ve made posts like that many times before,” he said.
Morgan said he primarily uses the site to announce daily specials and entertainment.
In an effort to add a more light-hearted spin to what turned into a controversial exchange, Morgan offered a free appetizer to anyone who bought dinner and mentioned the post on Thursday evening.
Cheryl Chambers, communications professor and social media director for Mississippi State University’s communication department, said Facebook appeals to many business managers and owners because it allows them quick, direct access to their customers.
“Social media reaches people where they are,” she said.
One year after its IPO, the impact Facebook has on business is steadily growing. But how and when businesses should use the site still is being played out in a public forum.
Chambers said the ability to quickly respond to a situation is both beneficial and potentially detrimental to a business’ marketing effort.
“If the business owner or someone in the company has the ability to get on there and say what they want …there really isn’t a censor,” she explained.
On a recent episode of the Fox television program “Kitchen Nightmares,” Chef Gordon Ramsay walked out of a restaurant he was consulting, saying that the owners would not listen and were beyond help.
The social media response that followed has been described as a total meltdown by the owners of Amy’s Baking Co., who took to the Internet to bash their critics with expletive-laden posts on Facebook. The Arizona business owners’ extreme reaction has drawn national attention.
Morgan’s post, a much different example, received positive as well as negative responses from readers.
Josh Mabus, owner of the Mabus agency, an advertising and marketing firm in Tupelo, was among those who weighed in. Mabus warned that though this incident would unlikely have a negative impact on the Blue Canoe’s business, it is not a precedent that other business owners should follow.
He credits the restaurant’s loyal following for coming out in its defense.
“You’ve got a case where a business owner stood up for himself and what was right,” Mabus said.
Mabus, who also teaches a class on social media for business at Itawamba Community College, said he does not believe Morgan was trying to be negative, but the danger of situations like this is that the negative message often outweighs the positive one.
Mabus said he advises students and clients to behave on social media the same way they would in any other social setting.
“Facebook, Twitter are like a dinner party – you need to behave like you are at a dinner party,” he explained.
Morgan stands by his post and said he would likely do it the same way again.
“It really wasn’t about a person,” he said, “It was about a point.”
Morgan defended his position and the policy of his restaurant succinctly in another post: “We put our best foot forward every single day, we also serve up some strange dishes. It’s not surprising that every single person doesn’t like them. I’m just not in the business of giving it to you for free if you don’t. Take a chance, most folks dig it, but certainly everyone isn’t going to. We offer free samples of beer, if you order one you don’t like that’s on you.”