What should a brand do when thrashed digitally?

What to do when a brand is thrashed digitally DigitalDefynd

Using celebs to endorse your brand is often a two-way street. Brands sign on celebrities after weeks, or months, of soul-searching, staring into space, strategizing and legal and financial diligence. It’s like a marriage – you are in with the celeb for a fairly long period of time and hope that your union is beneficial to both, or at the very least gets you nice selfies.

While brands were never in complete control of their perception, the loss of control is quite complete now. The power of the consumer to amplify the negative and ignore the positive has kept digital marketers on our toes. As it is, things are hardly certain in a country like ours – political and social uncertainty, natural calamities, strikes, traffic, the pot-bellied pandu, low quality of education – all of these combine to make some of us sleepless at night. Because today, the customer demands instant answers and gratification – and dare you deny him that, he will go online and use all his knowledge of twitter and facebook to vent against you.

The last thing you need is your brand ambassador doing or saying something that goes against popular sentiment. But then, you aren’t in control of his/her mouth. You find your mentions peak, but the sentiment tracker shows more orange than green and there goes your plan to go home and work from the privacy of your loo. And someone taps you and asks you to come to a meeting room full of people who till now, knew you are “into digital” but weren’t exactly sure what all that meant.

A dozen eyes look at you.

“So what’s your plan?”


So what’s your plan? Some suggestions.

  • Understand the problem dispassionately: This is darn difficult to do. You are wading through indignant, self-righteous and grammar-challenged sea of comments talking *at* you. You have methods to placate an irate customer waiting for her refund, but then this mess is something else. Panic sets in fast. The thing to do here is: a) take a deep breath b) shut down the screen showing your mentions c) use a filter to separate relevant voices from the noise – actual customers with problems c) get a hang of numbers – current hashtags, emerging hashtags, mentions, supportive and positive hashtags, and feed them into an hourly trend. You will get to know which way the river of stinky-solid-fluid is flowing, at least.
  • Assess best-case and worst-case scenario: In this case, the best case scenario would be that people become rational again and go back to the usual business of discount-hunting and freebie-seeking. The worst case – the mob becomes bigger and bigger, goes mainstream, and there is a realistic chance of permanent brand damage
  • Have a chat with your brand marketers: Is the problem the brand’s fault? You’ll find that the brand has little to do with it, and but the organization can do very little about it in a highly agitated scenario. No matter what you throw back, the crowd isn’t going to be pleased. Important action point here: don’t try to please a mob. It never works.
  • Work on your team: If you are leading a team of social customer care agents, it’s time to step it up. Ask them to address real customer service issues and ignore the noise. It’s hard, because they are trained to address and reply to every tweet. Retrain them quickly. And most importantly, make them feel relaxed and ease the pressure. One wrong word typed and you’ll only make the situation worse for your brand
  • Seek out influencers. The real ones, not the paid spammers: The phone rings. Your social media agency has a plan. The client servicing guy has prepared a draft of tweets which talk about the good work your organization has done. He says he can get “social media influencers” to talk about the positives of your brand, highlight the positives, and that he has the knowhow to “make it trend”. Tempting, but junk it.Instead – seek out the real influencers. READ what they are saying. Chances are that they’ve already latched on to the problem and are publishing some advice. Read. Absorb. You’ll get fresh perspectives and new ideas. The least it will do is settle your nerves.
  • Determine course of action: by now, the suits are panicking. Journalists are hounding your media folks. Your social media team is overwhelmed. You are itching for some action. You convene again in the meeting room. Everyone agrees on issuing a statement. As a digital marketer, however much you may disagree with the tone and content of the statement, you will have to execute it on the battlefield and do your best with it. Often, the leadership takes the call on the content and the tone. The best you can do is to prepare your team for the worst, and keep a close watch on how well the statement is being perceived on social.

Do you need to do anything more? I’d say no, except learn from the episode. Online mob fury is like a toddler’s tantrum. Inhale, exhale, and watch it blow past you.

Soon, it will be BAU and you’ll start welcoming that tweet telling you how much you suck because you didn’t send the consignment to the third address the man had given your customer care over phone while he was driving past Ambience Mall on NH7 and now his wife is really upset and you better pay his money or he will use social media to ensure no one buys from you again.


The post was originally published here

Haroon Bijli

Haroon is the Country Lead, Ecommerce, Digital and Social Marketing for Philips India.

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