The new world of social media offers many an opportunity to reach out, to engage. For a local Ottawa business, social media can allow you to turn your customers into “friends” and “followers” and provide you with a chance to speak to potential leads on a more personal level.

There are some amazing success stories of little shops who dramatically increased their client base through effective word-of-mouth advertising 2.0. Indeed, at Marketing Breakthroughs have seen mid-sized Ottawa businesses become big businesses based on a clever social media online campaign.

Naturally, one of the tenants of social media is that it is indeed social. This means actually building relationships with people and not just being an anonymous presence. As in any interaction, we try to present ourselves in the best light possible – highlighting certain traits over others and “putting your best foot forward” to use a cliché.

But what happens when we trip?

Social media can be a very friendly place, until the rules are broken. Any hint of fraud can send the self-affirmed super Internet sleuths on the hunt for evidence and the bigger the trail, the bigger “the scandal”.

Breaking the values of the social media jungle can quickly escalate out of control. Think of the ravenous mobs that occasionally erupt on The Simpsons – one slight trigger, and the town is rioting with fire and pitchforks, not for any particular reason, but for the fun of the riot itself.

A recent example of this would be Cooks Source magazine and the ugly 15-minutes of fame this tiny publication got after a dispute with a former writer. Once the story broke, angry bloggers began attacking their Facebook page with a vengeance. Ouch.

Of course, you are not involved in any sort of duplicity, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t constantly safeguard your online social media image. Even the Queen ran into this sort of trouble when she set up her Facebook page.

What are your customers saying about you?

What are your competitors saying about you?

It is important to consider these questions as we expand our social media circles.