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Social Media: Breaking through consumer criticism

For many brands and marketing executives, social media and the fear of consumer criticism go hand-in-hand. A recent article in AdWeek, Brand #Fail, provides considerations and recommendations for breaking through consumer criticism in the social space, and we’ve summarized key points to take away from the article.

Benefits and role of social & the fears that come with it:

The social web is about self-expression, a place where users are competing against one another for the pithiest, wittiest and most incendiary observations. Social is disruptive because it amplifies company problems/mistakes and adds a speed and velocity to them that we haven’t seen before; brands are not prepared for this. Another way to fail in this fast-paced media universe is to be totally silent, totally conservative and miss opportunities. A fundamental understanding of the power balance between marketer and consumer that social has wrought is a key first step on the part of top executives. “Even just having a Facebook page is a game changer because it’s not just a marketing channel, it’s a communications ecosystem,” says David Armano, evp of global innovation and integration at Edelman’s digital practice. This means brands must not only prepare themselves for but also be comfortable with a certain amount of dissent.

How To Prepare:

Social media “listening tools” (Radian6, Visible Technologies and Crimson Hexagon) can help a brand and its agencies monitor Internet chatter, gauge sentiments around a brand and alert a brand when a storm is brewing. Companies also should staff up to better manage messages and feedback and design guidelines for when to assemble a crisis-response team, says Armano. Designing flowcharts outlining recommended plans of action in the case of a social media mishap is another aid. The first commandment in the Marketing Via Social Media Bible may be, as it happens, “Do not censor.” “The best way brands can deal with negative social media issues is to have their consumers fight the battle for them,” says Matt Britton, Founder and CEO of Mr. Youth. “If both sides of the story are being heard, it becomes less of a firestorm and more of a healthy active, dialogue…which is all a brand can really hope for in a social space.” 

Social media has created new rules for business – transparency, authenticity and speed – that means social responsibility has to become a first priority for companies. You need to put social responsibility at the core and heart of business strategy, rather than leaving it in the silo. Doing something because it’s a marketing tactic or part of the CSR department will backfire on you, explains David Jones, global CEO of Havas.

When it comes down to it, it’s not a matter of if consumer criticism will ever happen, but a matter of when and how it will happen, and how a brand handles it is what makes the difference. Being prepared is essential and is what sets brands apart this day in age. Experiencing consumer criticism is not the end of the world; handling the criticism well can even strengthen your brand indefinitely. 

Topics: Social Media