Social Media. It is a strange bedfellow. In one short post you can gain viral fame, or total infamy. But besides viral videos and posts, most of us try and use social media to keep up with friends and family, and customers.
But where is the line?
I had an issue that has only recently been resolved and it has me thinking about all communication, including social media and where it should begin and end, especially for people like us, people whose face is the business, people who don't have an army of communication experts to hide behind and to help us when it all goes bad.
My story is short, well six months short: (Sorry mom, I know you are just reading this and I hadn't told you, but we didn't want anyone to stress. Love you!)
I had a customer contact me after a show asking to get together for coffee/lunch. I told her we could get together when I had time in my schedule but it would be at least a month. Then things started getting weird. My concept of being nice, but saying no, over and over, did not get me the response I hoped for. I began to escalate my "stop contacting me" responses, ending with one explaining that further contact would cause me to go to the authorities. Which I ultimately had to do. I cannot thank the Emmaus PD enough for being so professional, understanding, and for contacting this person, and for explaining the line between "pay attention to me" and "I am harassing you". I have been assured that further contact can and will end in her arrest.
One thing I found dealing with this is exactly how hard it is to deal with this when you are an artisan who moves from show to show. So many municipalities, so many different departments would need to be told of the situation prior to arrival in the area. We are exhibiting at public events (and even private ones) where there is no way to bar someone's entrance. In fact, we need to announce what public events we will be at in order to help build our business. We are giving everyone all the information they need to stalk or harass us at places that are almost impossible to preemptively bar them from, and in multiple locations making law enforcement as difficult as it can get. Yes, it really is as scary and creepy as this sounds.
Lets not even talk about artisans who work from their home. Luckily, I use a PO Box and there was no way to be found other than following me, but so many actually invite people to and into their home for business!
And as for social media, well that just adds to the ability to have a unnatural connection to you. Posting pictures of your home, your family, things you do like vacations, this all adds to our relationship with our good customers, but it also can add to the information that nefarious ones have too. I admit, I have been bad and not had a good handle on the line between personal and professional information. I can say that I will be taking time this winter when I don't have shows to go through all of my social media and look at how it is all connected. I plan on taking down lots of photos and posts and wiping as much information as I can from the past. But I also am taking a good look at how I post in the future.
Some of you may notice that I am in the process of changing the labeling of my Bug Off Lotion Bars to Woodland Wonder (there are just a few dozen of the old labels still around, so this should be done very soon). I am a soap and cosmetics maker, not a pesticide producer and I believe in following laws and requirements to my best ability. This is both a federal EPA and a state issue, so here is the short story.
· Minimum risk pesticides are a special class of pesticides that are not subject to federal registration requirements because their ingredients, both active and inert, are demonstrably safe for the intended use.
- · The product must contain only approved active ingredients. The active ingredient of a product is the ingredient that kills, destroys, mitigates, or repels pests named on the product label. The Orange Oil and Catnip Oil I use in my formula are not on this list of approved ingredients.
- · The product must contain only those inert ingredients that have been classified by EPA as Inert Ingredients of Minimal Concern. The cocoa butter and almond oil I use in my formula are not on this list of approved ingredients.
- · Even if I changed my formula and was compliant to the above federal ingredient requirements, there are still further rules to follow, including more complex labeling laws, and state registration requirements. If I were to remain making my lotion bar as is and claiming insect repelling properties, I would need to register as a pesticide producer in the state of PA.
Because my product is not compliant, I have removed all claims of repelling pests of any kind. However, I know many of you still like the scent and have personal anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness on your own. Therefore, I have renamed it Woodland Wonder and it is being sold as a “normal” lotion bar. The formula has not changed in any way, just the labeling.
If you are looking at other handcrafted (or even mass produced items) that claim to repel insects, you should also look for the following information on the label:
- · The active ingredient(s) must be listed by name and percentage by weight.
- · The label cannot include any false or misleading statements, and claims that minimum risk pesticides protect human or public health are prohibited.
- · Minimum risk pesticide labels may not bear claims to control rodent, insect or microbial pests in a way that links the pests with any specific disease.
- · The product is made in the state, it should be registered in the state of PA. You can look them up by company here: http://npirspublic.ceris.purdue.edu/state/state_menu.aspx?state=PA
- · If you are interested in seeing the lists of approved active and inert ingredients you can find them here http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/biopesticides/regtools/25b_list.htm