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The Dangers of Social Media Advice

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The Dangers of Social Media Advice

I wasn’t terribly surprised when it happened again. It happens every few days, but now and then a particularly dangerous exchange gets my attention.

A legal question was posted in a facebook group I follow. It wasn’t my area of specialty, so despite years of study and professional experience, I didn’t comment. Anyone could venture a guess, but this wasn’t a question about the best app to use. It was a serious situation, that could cost this business owner both time and money if they got it wrong.

I was surprised, however, to see that 32 people had already commented, and as I scrolled through the responses, I saw disaster in the making.

17 comments on a suggested course of action (that I believed to be outdated) and 11 comments on how expensive lawyers are, and the reasons to avoid them. Each typed with good intentions (except maybe one or two of the nastier comments about lawyers) and the conviction that their advice was correct.

It wasn’t until the end of the comments that I breathed a sigh of relief as an expert entered the conversation. She said the laws had recently changed to prevent certain action and that the suggested advice would almost certainly result in court action against the business owner. She provided some alternatives but pointed out that she would need more details before giving advice on what would be the best course of action.

There was a brief “Thanks.” And the feed fell silent. No one who’d previously commented apologised, and none of those who’d badmouthed lawyers thought to thank this one for sharing her knowledge and saving their colleague’s skin. Once again, I was stunned.

Make good choices.

As business owners, we don’t need to have all the answers, but we need to be sensible about where we’re getting them. There’s a reason professionals study for years before being qualified to give advice. There are reasons industries have specialist accreditation or certification to help you know who you’re dealing with. And there are reasons most professionals are required to continue learning and updating their skills every year.

That reason is because:

The wrong advice can be very dangerous. It can cost you your time, money and in some cases, your reputation.

There are two things to learn here:

1. Don’t take unqualified advice, and

2. Don’t give it.

Have the sense to know when a topic requires professional advice, and unless that’s your profession, don’t take a stab at an answer. Your good intentions might lead to a poor choice that costs your friend dearly.

Speak up.

Next time you see comments in a Facebook feed about how expensive an expert is, have the courage to remind those posting that cheap advice often results in expensive outcomes. We get to choose when we spend our time and money – a few dollars before the advice, or a lot more after it.

I agree that there are many professionals who do their industry a disservice in the way they relate to clients or the fees they charge for an inadequate service. But as business owners, we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Instead of writing-off all professionals and relying on social media for our advice, we need to find the professionals who are right for us.

There are plenty of highly qualified people out there, who are easily accessible and whose knowledge is a critical investment in the success of your business.

Social media can be a wonderful source of connection and guidance when we’re looking for products or general recommendations.

But don’t risk your business on well-meaning responses from people who simply don’t know the correct answer.

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  • Rosemary
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    Great article, with sound advice.

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