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For a business like a bakery, I have to imagine that reputation plays a significant part in gaining continual and new business. At this point you may have heard about the troubles of Amy’s Baking Company, featured on the reality TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” and, due to their not playing well with others, was the first company to cause Gordon Ramsay to walk out. Online they have caused a similar stir with their incredibly inappropriate handling of criticism on their Facebook page. It has since been deleted, but the Internet has a way of making things live forever. They claim their account was hacked, and this claim is being investigated. This has been an excuse others have used to explain away inappropriate social media behavior, and I guess we’ll have to see what comes of the investigation. All in all, it has been sort of amusing to follow, but it’s also painful to watch so much damage being done to a company’s reputation. Author Cory Doctorow predicted the rise of “reputation capital” in his 2003 science fiction book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (which you can actually download for free at http://craphound.com/down/ if you’re interested). In the book, a persons reputation holds value in society and even replaces money in many cases. In the book it is called “Whuffie“, and in a life-imitating-art kind of way you sometimes see this term used in the real world to talk about social media reputation. I can only imagine how much Whuffie Amy’s Baking Company has lost during this ordeal.

For those of us watching, there are a number of teachable moments here. Eileen Brown at ZDNet has a great article that outlines ten social media lessons to draw from this mess – worth a read if you are a social media and/or community manager for your company.

Image courtesy of makeshiftlove