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Social Media isn't always beneficial to a business. Yes, having a twitter account for your business (or yourself if you front your business) can bring results - raising awareness of special events with the full details on your website for example.

However customers also have forms of social media that can damage business. My biggest hatred is of Tripadvisor.

I have no problem that allows for customers to review a business and for the owner to easily respond. Tripadvisor allows customers to be as vague or specific as they like. It doesn't check the validity of the review. And it allows the customer to remain anonymous. I'll copy and paste our last two reviews from the site to show you what I mean:

4 reviews

“Expensive food, rude staff”
Reviewed 7 June 2011 - NEW
This pub offers an extremely expensive food. The staff was rude to us (shouting at us twice !).

  • Stayed June 2011, travelled with family

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1 review

“Rude Staff”
Reviewed 21 May 2011
Whilst the location & setting of the pub are good, the general attitude of the staff is awful. If you enjoy being treated like a fool, this is the place for you. I get the impression that the lack of competition in this small town, has bred a level of customer service which wouldn't feel out of place at Fawlty Towers. That said, the range of beers on tap is excellent. Pity about the rest.

  • Stayed June 2010

Now I have no problem with negative reviews. I think they are good for business - if things are going to well it's easy to start missing the small things that lead onto larger problems. My issue with both the above is how vague they are, and the damage they do to our ranking and stats that Tripadvisor uses. For example, MrGoffy rated our 'rooms, cleanliness and value' as 2 out of 5. By the sounds of the review, he didn't stay with us. It can't be said that he ate with us.

Given the time of the review, he may have visited during the Hay Festival, a busy time. Likewise for the top review - it's so vague I can't work to correct it. He may feel that the food is expensive (locally sourced, organic where possible and 100% home-made doesn't come cheap - staff wages are one of our highest overheads). Being shouted at twice - I'm sure I would have known about a member of staff shouting at a customer once, let alone twice. The only time over the festival that a customer was shouted at was when their toddler was climbing over the building site where the brewery should be built. Uneven surface, a spade, fork cement mixer amongst other tools were there. My dad shouted over to the parents, sitting with their back to the child. 5 minutes later, exactly the same thing happened - the parents weren't watching their young girl and she had started climbing over the site again.

But my experience trying to write a reply to tripadvisor has been less than fruitful. You can't suggest anything, you can't advertise (asking a reviewer to check details on the website for example) and if you feel a review is fake you get 250 characters to explain why.

I can't be bothered to try and get a response through tripadvisor's filters that I feel would do the Inn justice. With no chef and a busy bar, I've got enough on my hands. Hence the lack of decent blog posts!

Do you use sites like tripadvisor? How much do they make a difference to you? Is it right people who haven't stayed at a BnB/Inn/Hotel can review it on a site that is primarily about accommodation?