We recently had an opportunity to learn some very important lessons from mistakes others have made in public relations, business ownership and social communications.

I’m sure you remember the reports and the responses about Chick-Fil-A’s CEO and his position on what the company gives money to. This is not a debate about that position being right or wrong. I want to focus on the mistakes made in the communications process and what we as small business owners can learn.

In the situation I’m referring to, Chick-Fil-A’s CEO spoke out on a sensitive subject. Now as an individual he has the right to voice his opinion. However, the public took it to be the stance of the company, especially since money was involved.

Shortly after that, one of Chick-Fil-A’s competitors jumped into the conversation on Twitter and made their own position clear — again as a corporation not an individual — only to find that people who were anti-Chick-Fil-A were equally unimpressed with the “supposed” support the brand was showing them.

We’ve built our businesses, and our customers and potential clients associate us with the business. This means we walk a fine line when it comes to communicating as a business and as an individual. The United States Constitution guarantees our right, as an individual, to freedom of speech. Our customers are less forgiving.

Social media has driven brands to become “human” and to interact with customers in a conversational way. There is a line, though. A line that should not be crossed. Before posting to Facebook, Twitter or making statements to the press, business owners need to think “is this my view, or does it represent how my business runs?”

So the lesson to be learned here is that you shouldn’t always be the voice of your business. While you might feel passionately about a topic, consider whether or not is has a connection to your business. Is there a way you can communicate your passion without alienating your audience? How important is your passion to your business? These are the types of questions that you need to ask yourself before putting your fingers on the keyboard.

The downside of social media and its easy accessibility is precisely that, it is easily accessible. From our desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. Any time we want to share a thought, we can. As business owners we have to be smarter than that and realize that the always-on microphone that is social media is something that has to be used responsibly.

What other takeaways did you find in the Chick-Fil-A situation?