Managing a business’ social media presence is an unlikely thought to have over dinner, but that is what crossed my mind last evening as my wife and I enjoyed an early dinner at one of our favourite restaurants of the eat as much as you can and cook at the table type eatery. The restaurant is a great barn of a place with close to one hundred tables which, in restaurant parlance, means they can seat 400 covers at a time, which is just as well as it is very popular. What caused me to think of this subject was that about a quarter of the diners were “playing” with a smartphone. None was making or receiving a telephone call. They were all using social sites.Taking photos of the food they were cooking and posting them online was a popular activity, and of course, taking the ubiquitous “selfie”. In some instances all the diners at a table were occupied doing this. This phenomenon has been explained to me as being a way of sharing the experience with absent friends and interacting with them.That is what got me thinking about why a business should manage its online presence. The restaurant I was dining at does have very positive online presence, but an up-market restaurant in the same town has recently suffered a very different fate following comments made in a local forum by a disgruntled customer.A Google search confirmed that this other restaurant does not have a website, or a Face Book page or any other official online presence. It does, however, have an online presence in the form of reviews on TripAdvisor and a thread in an active local forum, even if the restaurateur is unaware of this. Unfortunately for him the conversation in the forum is generally negative. Worse still, this conversation has been going on for several days. Not only has this conversation been indexed by Google, it is the first item in the listing for a search against the name of the restaurant.No business can satisfy 100% of its customers 100% of the time. It is how the business deals with those few dissatisfied customers that makes all the difference. In the case of this “other” restaurant, the owner seems to be unaware of the damage caused to the reputation of his business and that potential customers, such as my wife and I, have been put off from going there.Contrast that with how another small local business has responded to detrimental comments on social media. This business owner has arranged for the Internet in general and social media in particular to monitored several times a day for comments and conversations in which his business is mentioned. Whenever and where ever it is mentioned, he responds – with thanks if praised, and with apologies and remedial measures if there is criticism. This entrepreneur has a website and also uses social media extensively to promote his business.What can we learn from these two examples of social media management by small local businesses?In the case of the “other” restaurant, there no social media management taking place. By not being a participant in the online conversation, the restaurateur is not engaging with his customers and potential customers. Nor is he protecting the reputation of his business and is letting other people control the conversation to his detriment. The result of which is that he has undoubtedly lost business.In contrast, the local entrepreneur is effectively managing his social media presence to promote his business and to engage with his customers and potential customers, develop his brand, and to protect the reputation of his business. As a result, he has a loyal customer base who often make repeat purchases and his business is prospering.Neither business is sufficiently large to employ a full-time in-house social media manager. Whereas one business has no one dealing with social media management, the other recognised the importance of this function and has outsourced this task, albeit on a part-time basis.In the past, a disgruntled customer would tell 12 people of his dissatisfaction. These days, he posts his complaint on social media for the whole world to see. The Internet is social, which means unless the business owner steers the conversation in a positive direction, he is allowing others to control how that conversation develops. The takeaway is that no business, irrespective of its size, can afford it ignore the management of its social media presence.