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In high school, I worked as a delivery guy for a local pizzeria called Mario’s Famous. Around the time that I was hired, the restaurant, once a community favorite, started a pretty noticeable descent in quality. This dip, which sprung mostly from a change in ownership and an inconsistency of staff, had a sizable impact on the company’s net sales. The new owner, a slick talking New York lawyer, and a UCLA alum, had never made a pizza in his life, and lived about 2 hours away from where the pizzeria was located. He, however, did not see his dearth of experience, or his remote location, as an impediment to running a successful business. Why? Well, according to him the answer was simple: entering the social media space before any of our competitors was a surefire way to revive the struggling business, and help to re-establish the “Mario’s brand”.Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 3.15.37 PM

This image is taken courtesy of Ryan Vaarsy, who has been a Flickr user since 2006.

So with our course of action set, Mario’s continued to neglect the quality of it’s food, in favor of aggressive social media advertising tactics, which the owner hoped would attract new business. I remember specific occasions where this trade-off was particularly noticeable. On one occasion, the owner was supposed to leave the restaurant to pick up fresh chicken for a large catering order, but instead, he was too engrossed in setting up a Facebook promotion for coupons to remember this responsibility. When the time came for the order to be prepared, he made a last ditch effort to cover up his mistake, and ordered our cooks to use frozen chicken fingers in 4 different catering orders for chicken parmesan.

This past summer, I returned home, and Mario’s Pizza was out of business. Evidently, the owner of the restaurant was so satisfied in receiving online traction for his business, such as Facebook likes or Twitter followers, that he underemphasized the fundamental need to convert online activity into offline profit. This personal experience is a unique insight into the fact social media’s enticing nature can be dangerous for small business owners who don’t fully understand its implications. This is not to discount the positive affect social media can have on one’s business, just remember, even the big firm’s with sophisticated marketing teams outsource the responsibility of social media advertising to niche companies that specialize in online engagement.

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This image is taken courtesy of Alpha, who was been a Flickr user since 2005.

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