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What we can learn from Amy's Baking Company social media meltdown

Posting in Technology

Lessons one and two: The Internet is a double-edged sword for interacting with the masses, and for your firm to succeed, professionalism is key.

Ran by husband and wife team Sam and Amy Bouzaglos, Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro was recently shown on Gordon Ramsey's television show Kitchen Nightmares. In an unusual move, Ramsey walked out on the pair, as they were "incapable of listening."

The program showed the owners in an unflattering light; in the footage admitting that they took waiting staff's tips away unlawfully, Sam became physical with a customer and a member of staff was fired for asking a question. After the show aired, criticism and comments appeared not only on the company's Facebook page, but also on Reddit and Yelp.

However, it was not the criticism which was destructive to the brand -- but the way the owners handled it.

Rather than quelling the criticism storm, the situation escalated, resulting in Sam and Amy claiming they were "hacked" and not responsible for the commentary:

The result? A new, "cleaner" Facebook page was opened -- before being rapidly shut and the old page updated instead -- and a press release says that after a few days, the restaurant will be hosting a "grand opening" to tell its side of the story, the online commentary notwithstanding.

Not only has the business response resulted in questions over Amy's criminal history and allegations of money laundering, but the bad publicity may have been avoided if the owner's responses had been professional. The reaction has even resulted in an online petition for the U.S. Department of Labor and the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to investigate whether the owners are unlawfully confiscating tips, and a number of satirical Facebook pages.

In the same way that companies have suffered battered reputations after responding inappropriately on social media, the owners may not have realized how quickly the online community can make or break an SMB.

You would be forgiven for thinking over 70,000 likes on Facebook means the company has a popular brand. But as one Facebook user put it -- and over 14,000 people agree -- many are simply watching the PR train-wreck unfold. Whether the business can recover remains to be seen.

Image credit: Facebook/Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro

— By on May 16, 2013, 5:24 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure