Okay, which one of us is '404 Page Not Found!
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30091488@N03/3559824308

Thanks to the Internet, social media, and increasingly powerful and portable devices, the world as we know is connected like never before. Your business' ability to reach out to new consumers is unrivalled. Unfortunately, this ease of communication is a two-edged sword. Just like it's easier for you to reach out to new customers, it's also easier for less than pleasant people to smear your company in front of a large audience. Learn to recognize all kinds of miscreants, resulting in possibly fatal repercussions for your small business. Here are the Four Minor Horsemen of the Internet Apocalypse.


Your online reputation is now at risk from the Four Horsemen. This first Horseman posts negative comments simply because they can. The relative anonymity of the Internet emboldens them, and allows all of their jerk tendencies to shine(?) forth in all their questionable glory.  They probably spent their childhood pulling wings off of flies, or yelling out how a magician did the trick at a birthday party. 


This Horseman posts negative things about your business because they somehow want something from you. Dissatisfied customers who e-mail a company about a bad experience often times end up getting free coupons or some other goodie. Perhaps the person who posted a bad review on your site is a customer who wants something exchanged even when your rules expressly state that you don't do exchanges. Maybe they're looking for a different exception to the rules, or perhaps even some freebies. And if you're not going to give them satisfaction, by golly, they'll let the Internet know what a rip-off artist you are!


Ever wonder what became of those torch-wielding mobs you see in monster movies? You know, the ones who had really no idea that what they were doing was wrong, or they had simply misunderstood the monster in question? Well, as technology advanced, they drifted back to their homes, bought computers, got online, and ranted about things they were mistaken about.

This Horseman is not necessarily malicious, just ill-informed. This could be the customer that had a gripe but wasn't aware that your business has channels that they could go through to get a problem resolved. Or perhaps they logged onto your site, saw the huge banner that said "No Refunds", put in an order, saw that the shopping cart said "No Refunds", got an acknowledgement e-mail that included the words "No Refunds", received a text message on their smart phone thanking them for their order and mentioning that there were "No Refunds", then got furious when they eventually decided to send the product back and were told they couldn't get a refund.

I thought the dirigible trailing the 'No Refunds' sign was meant for someone ELSE, not for ME!"
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barkbud/4257136773

True Victim

Okay, so maybe "victim" is too dramatic a word. But in any event, this is the most dangerous Horseman of all, because their point is valid. Your business messed up, and this person actually did get the short end of the stick. But this is also the easiest Horseman to deal with. Follow up on their complaints, try to make things right, and who knows? That detractor may end up being your biggest fan eventually.