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You Can’t Control Customer Behavior Online

American Genius published an article, “Corner Bakery Cafe forbids photography inside their restaurants, ‘it’s policy.’” It is another cautionary tale about bad decisions with regard to customer engagement and misguided social media policy. The Corner Bakery Cafe forbids photography inside their restaurants. As author Marti Trewe says in the article, and I agree,“Unfortunate and misguided.”

MARKETING REACH

It  has never been easier to spread your reputation and garner attention, especially for a business like a restaurant. In fact, social communication is partly responsible for the meteoric rise of the gourmet food truck sector from 2011 until now. There are tons of success stories, especially in the restaurant industry, of getting referral and repeat customers as a result of shared stuff online. After all the heart and soul of “social media,” is user-generated content.

BUSINESS DOESN’T CHOOSE

Your business is online and in social channels. Whether you choose to actively participate in the conversation or not is your choice. Never expect to control the conversation. Any attempt to dictate customer behavior can be damaging to your brand.

If our company were to do an analysis of Corner Bakery Cafe then trying to prevent customers from sharing anything online would be a significant weakness. Chain stores of this size (170+ locations in at least 17 states) are beyond this phase of maturity. Many are now figuring out how to train and engage their employees to safely take part in social channels. If you’re still considering public engagement then you are behind competitively in most markets.

IDEAS TO SHARE

  1. You should not attempt to control customer behavior (because…see #2 below)
  1. You cannot control customer behavior
  1. We are in the age of the empowered customer. You must find a way to weave the experience you create into the customer’s journey.
  1. Digital interaction is part of our lives now. We share information in the moment. You can choose whether or not you embrace it personally. However, as a business, organization, team or nation, your choice SHOULD BE dictated by your audience.

Note: Corner Bakery Cafe has an active presence online with popular, carefully managed profiles on most public platforms.

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