By Teri DiMarino
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that social media has carved out a place in our modern day lives. It keeps us in touch with our friends, family, our businesses, and the industry. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites (including message boards) have become extremely useful tools in the grooming industry with pages devoted to grooming critiques, competition questions, business inquiries, trade shows, and continued education, as well as the sale or barter of equipment. Barkleigh is bringing the excitement of the contest arena and trade show right into your home with GroomerTV covering nearly every trade show and contest in the country. Viewer input via the Internet during the streaming of the shows helps groomers from around the world almost feel like they are there.
I lurk on a number of these sites and enjoy watching some of the banter that goes back and forth. I don’t waste my time with aggressive posts that insult people, and I don’t appreciate any of the bad mouthing that, on occasion, rears its ugly head. I do, however, pay attention when I see someone getting some bad advice about their business. Sometimes I input publicly, but more often than not, I private message the individual with my opinion. That’s what social media seems to be about: personal opinion. I don’t need or want the entire world reading what I may consider a private post.
A recent case in point: I followed a post from a relatively new groomer who had a position at a salon with an owner she liked. The owner was working with her to improve her skills. We all know it takes at least two years to become relatively proficient and get your speed up enough to make a decent living. This groomer was building her own clientele and had a desire to have her own home-based business one day. A local pet shop sought her out and asked her to run their new grooming department. While extremely flattered that they had asked her, she had the good sense to ask for the opinions of other groomers through social media. I was appalled by the amount of poor, misguided advice she was getting. Posts ranged from “set your own prices and demand 60%” to “stay where you are and get more experience,” which, I am pleased to report, she did.
I really hate focusing on any single post, but that “set your own prices and demand 60%” really irked me. Here is a groomer with less than a year experience at the table, and someone is telling her to “demand” a certain percentage. A percentage of what? I could go off into a whole other direction at this point, but price setting is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Without losing my focus, I will just say that this was a poorly thought out piece of advice, and I am glad the newbie groomer did not pursue it. She still has a lot to learn, and I hope she turns her sights on the business aspect of our industry if she intends to make a career in grooming.
Social media and its influence on us can unwittingly guide us in making huge milestones or monstrous mistakes in our businesses. People asking for grooming advice sometimes post a photo of their groom in the hope of getting a beneficial critique. While this is a great tool, it can sometimes leave a groomer a bit confused. For example, one person may post that the dog is a bit off balance or maybe the tuck-up is a bit too far back—both good pieces of constructive criticism. Another person may post, “That’s the most beautiful groom I’ve ever seen!” which is not going to help the groomer one bit. If anything, it may lead them into thinking that the groom is correct and contest worthy.
One particular Facebook page, moderated by GroomTeam USA member Jodi Murphy is “Critique Your Groom.” Jodi welcomes new members but advises all to follow the rules she pins on the page. She encourages people to keep their critiques positive and encouraging, but she monitors the site closely. Marginally incorrect critiques are, for the most part, allowed to stay as long as the “incorrectness” is addressed by other members. If a critique is totally off base, Jodi quickly takes down any erroneous input. This is an educational page, and people who post their pictures for critique deserve honest input. Honest input isn’t always pretty, but it does not need to be damaging.
Social media is a way to reach out to our customers and keep our businesses current. When a customer “likes” your salon’s page, they will continue to receive any input you place on there. This could be pictures of dogs, useful pet owner sites, or just what is going on in the life of your salon. Keep these public posts positive, and keep your whining and belly-aching on your private pages. Your clients don’t need to hear that you had three no-shows today or that you have insomnia every night. They don’t care! Nothing makes me want to ignore a person more than nonsensical posts. Public is just that—public! You are sharing this stuff with everybody! If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!
Some social media sites can be problematic and totally out of our control. I see Yelp! potentially as one of them. While I do follow Yelp! and post honest reviews, I have seen some pretty bad stuff posted on some grooming salons on this site, some of which I know is not true. All it takes is one disgruntled customer, former employee, or even the grooming shop down the street to post a big negative, and even though the post is not founded in fact, it becomes a big headache and certainly does you no good. That said, there are constructive reviews posted here; if you are a groomer and see a bad one about your salon, use the input as a tool and improve the areas in question. Sometimes people can’t deal with face-to-face confrontation when they’ve had an issue with a dog. The privacy veil social media affords allows them to say whatever they want, and there is little that can be done about it.
Another quick note about some of the nastiness that can raise its ugly head on social media: I have always thought that there should be a sarcasm font, as so much written material is taken the wrong way. Groomers are a passionate people, and sometimes we get carried away with emotion and anger. Once again, these are public sites and posting should be done carefully. If you are angry, hurt, or just venting, do yourself a favor: write your post separately and reread it later in the day or, preferably, the next day. You would be surprised at how our thought process can change when we see ourselves wearing our “cranky hat.”
As far as I’m concerned, the first person to say a nasty word during a heated argument loses the discussion. There is no need for foul language or tainted jabs at people, products, or companies. There is private messaging for that. If you want to make a point directly to another person, do it the right way and pick up the phone, call the person one-on-one, and discuss your differences. Social media is like a big screen that people think they can hide behind, but all it does is magnify bad behavior.
Just recently, Todd Shelly of Barkleigh Productions started several threads on the Facebook page “Groomers Uplifting Groomers.” These were all aimed at getting us to post the positive things in our lives. What a pleasantly refreshing change that was! There were so many posts I could hardly keep up with them all! Everybody was relieved to be able to post a positive, and we all have so much to be thankful for. Another page, “Groomers Grief Support Group,” inspired by Dawn Omboy’s loss of her mother, is a private group helping groomers deal with the deep grief associated with the loss of a loved one. No nastiness here—just lots of hugs and support. There are pages for GroomTeam USA, contest groomer pages, and so much more.
Social media is so much more than a toy. It is a tool, and like any tool, it can work for you or against you. You just have to know how to use it.