'I know of several businesses where social media turned sour...'
Sonya Lennon is co-founder of online fashion platform Frockadvisor, which relies heavily on social media to connect with its customers
Frockadvisor is a social commerce platform which connects people interested in fashion.
It offers integrated content and a 'buy it now' function.
Lennon launched it with co-founder Brendan Courtney. She explains its genesis and why social media is so important to fashion businesses.
"When we set up Frockadvisor, only about 20pc of independent retailers were online, so a huge number were missing out on the opportunity presented by online shopping," she says.
"We wanted to help them get online and reach potential customers in a creative, engaging, cost-effective way."
About 150 boutiques now use the platform.
"That means we are incredibly mindful about what we say on social media because we are speaking for our customers in a sense and have a responsibility to support and do right by them."
Frockadvisor maintains several different social media accounts which are managed by staff members.
"We run all our social media accounts in-house and we are very active on lots of different platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. You name it, we are on it."
Fashion brands are particularly vulnerable to reputational damage via online channels, Lennon says.
"The fashion industry is very online-focussed and a huge percentage of fashion fans shop online, more so than almost any other category.
"What that means is that whatever is being said about fashion brands and stores online has a clear and direct impact on their bottom line. I have seen several examples of serious damage done to companies because, for whatever reason, social media or review websites have turned sour for them. A reputation for good customer service is hugely important to clothing boutiques, for example.
"I know of instances where companies have felt held hostage by bad reviews online and found it very difficult to fight their way back from that.
"We have signed up to a social media monitoring service to protect ourselves and our members. It alerts us to any sort of sentiment online that may be a risk to a business.
"It is great to have that peace of mind that you can follow what people are saying about the business and the sentiment towards it. I would definitely recommend it to other small business owners.
"I think good social media management is also about understanding how to manage the situation.
"We haven't had a negative experience yet, thankfully, but I have seen it happen - and I have seen people handle it the wrong way. They respond in anger or whatever.
"Calm, cool, polite, measured responses - and dealing with disputes privately where possible - are the only way to manage it."
Sunday Indo Business