Social media has a large presence in the lives of Las Vegas residents, including business owners. Popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more give people a virtual platform to have their voices heard by thousands, and perhaps millions, of others around the world. It can be all too easy for some to forget that once posted, their words may have a long-term impact on others’ opinions of them. For business owners, this has the potential to be either beneficial or disastrous.

An ice cream shop owner in Florida recently learned this lesson the hard way. Reportedly, the woman answered another business owner’s Facebook post and then began to post inflammatory comments against political, religious and racial groups. She also used profane language against those who called her out on her negative opinions. After her posts received thousands of views, the woman’s actions backfired on her. Numerous commenters left negative reviews on her business’s Google and Yelp sites.

As any business owner knows, online reviews can greatly influence other customers to either visit the establishment or stay away. It is important, therefore, to maintain a professional demeanor around the public, including online. Once posted, social media comments are often permanent. One can delete these comments, but there is nothing to stop others from reposting or taking screenshots to share with countless others.

Social media sites can help increase a company’s online presence and attract customers when used the right way. They can also have the opposite effect if business owners are not careful with how they present themselves online in both a personal and professional capacity.

Source: The Washington Post, “‘The ice cream is as bitter and cold as the owner’: After tirade, Internet turns on woman’s business,” Cleve R. Wootson Jr.