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For all the good that comes of engaging consumers on social media, your brand still must guard against potential crises and reputational threats. Social media intelligence gives you the tools to manage crises – by avoiding them in the first place, or minimizing damage when avoidance isn’t possible.

Creating a baseline

Hopefully “crisis mode” isn’t a regular state of being for your brand – but having the lay of the land when things are calm is one way to insure you can spot issues brewing early enough to stop them in their tracks.

Social media listening isn’t a periodic task. Data must be gathered regularly, in real-time, to be reliable and useful. Insights about your customers and your audience, a.k.a. prospects, should be behind every decision your brand makes.

These insights are particularly relevant when applied to brand health. How else can you solve a problem but by first identifying it? The always-running focus group of social media offers unlimited feedback your brand can put into action.

What you most want to tune into is the emotions and behaviors of your audience – in relation to your brand, competing brands, and your industry overall. That’s why state of the art social analytics software is a necessary investment – nothing less will give you the information you need.

Why emotions? They’re the driving force behind social posts, and they’re what bring your brand the most success – and the most trouble.

Not every person posting on social media will care to share your brand’s messaging – even if they like you well enough. It takes a passionate person to become a brand advocate or influencer – so you’ve got to be able to spot these consumers in the wilds of social.

insta-love

 

But connecting with any consumer requires understanding all the things they love – not just the fact they love your brand. Consumers want brands to be more than entities shoving promotions in their faces – they want a human connection. They want to be seen and appreciated as more than potential revenue for your brand.

So you need to know what motivates your audience – and the varying segments within it. Do they love you for your wisecracks about the same celebrities they shake their heads at? Do they love you for your philanthropy, or your commitment to social issues? Do they love the way you empower women, or care for the elderly?

It’s not just about providing a quality product and letting them know when it’s on sale. And analytics isn’t just about knowing whether consumers liked your latest ad campaign.

Houston, we have a problem

You’ve got to know where your audience stands at all times so you can spot problems easily.

Take a look at the comment thread on any controversial post or blog and you can see how quickly emotions can shift from the positive to the negative. A story doesn’t even need to be true for social users to turn on a brand. Social media is all about sensationalistic headlines, quick reactions, and viral amplification.

Viral posts are amazing when they’re positive. When they’re negative… it may take months or years for your brand to recover.

Social media intelligence is your first line of defense. It lets you spot the negative posts, and assess whether they are potential threats, customer service issues, or simply Internet trolls spouting off.

But more than that, social listening provides valuable research about what consumers don’t want – so you don’t waste resources on trial and error. And so you don’t anger them by acting on incorrect assumptions.

An easy example of this is the recent Instagram logo change – of which not everyone is a fan. And it’s not that Instagram isn’t entitled to update their logo, or do anything they want, really – but a little social recon might have let them know fans thought the current logo was just fine. And that the new version they designed wasn’t enough of an improvement to warrant the change.

In Instagram’s case, there haven’t been any noteworthy consequences. There are 300 million daily active users who clearly don’t care what the logo looks like – and in truth, it doesn’t impact much. But for another brand such a change could equal disaster.

King of Kings

Agency Camp + King understands the potential for disaster inherent in rebranding – and the important of consumer sentiment in making decisions.

Their client, the Sacramento Kings, wanted to launch an updated team logo to coincide with the opening of the new Golden 1 Center for the 2016-2017 season. They knew some fans would be excited and full of civic pride for Sacramento – but they were prepared for some negative reactions as well.

First, the new logo design wasn’t drastically different from the previous – which might cause some to question the change. Secondly, as the Kings hadn’t made the playoffs in the previous season, focus on the team’s performance would likely be deemed more important than updating the logo. Finally, any rationalization of the new design could be construed as inauthentic – especially if it didn’t speak to fans’ concerns.

Camp + King, began using NetBase in the months leading up to the new logo launch to have a baseline of social conversation surrounding the team’s brand so they’d spot any changes in sentiment quickly. They also used our alerts to be informed of negative posts about the Kings.

This is a critical advantage for keeping ahead of reputational threats. Not every “cranky” post is cause for concern, but certain keywords should be monitored to keep you apprised of serious issues requiring attention.

Two days before the official campaign launch, Camp + King received such an alert from NetBase. Colorless renditions of the new logo designs were leaked to major media outlets. These black and white versions of the logo were being passed around by fans, and – without context – did not have fans excited.

There was a large spike in conversation on social media, and a drop in Net Sentiment – the value indicating whether fan emotions are negative or positive.

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To react or not to react

The question for Camp + King became whether explaining the logo via a pre-staged website would make matters better or worse. This is exactly when social data matters most, and the agency applied it. They used NetBase to determine if action was needed.

They looked at the key themes driving the negative conversation, knowing they couldn’t act without specifically understanding the emotions and behaviors behind the lowered Net Sentiment score of -37% (on a scale of -100 to 100).

What Kings fans were feeling most was frustration – both with the team’s performance and team management, and with the colorless logo design, thinking it was the finished product. This was actually good news.

The Camp + King team knew the new logo itself would resolve concern over the leaked, colorless logo, so they chose not to respond. The negativity was overshadowed by the official logo launch two days later, where the focus was turned to the Kings’ positive history with the city of Sacramento.

The Camp + King case study perfectly illustrates that responding isn’t always the answer. In fact, sometimes it fans the flames higher instead of putting out the fire. Social sentiment data is the key to recognizing which approach is warranted.

In Camp + King’s case, they brought Net Sentiment for the Sacramento Kings back up to +84  while also increasing brand conversation by 10 times, and identifying 100 new influencers to use for future campaigns. Knowing their audience and understanding why they were upset in the short term guided their course of action.

Sometimes staying quiet hurts your brand, however. Checkers, a drive-thru restaurant chain, discovered too late a video circulating that showed an employee wiping a burger bun on a dirty floor and serving it to a customer. A half-million YouTube views and nearly 5 million Facebook views later, the damage had been done.

checkers

Could there be a bigger argument for real-time monitoring and alerts? Even if you can’t control the sharing of an unflattering post, you can begin damage control immediately, possibly keeping sentiment on your side, and warding off some of the negative interest.

When consumers show vs. tell

Speaking of logos, would you know if yours was being misappropriated by someone with a grudge? As image sharing increases in popularity thanks to sites like Instagram and Snapchat, visual listening is becoming as crucial a part of social listening as the ability to surface keywords and emotions.

Not all negative posts will mention your brand directly – particularly if there’s an image that tells the story well enough. That means your brand is at risk from visual threats – unless your software can spot logo use and variations in social images. (Ours can.)

Comprehensive social monitoring means keeping an eye on any and all ways your brand can be harmed online.

Social intelligence for customer care

Part of keeping threats at bay is regular maintenance of small issues while they’re still small. Customer complaints left unresolved fester and become much bigger headaches than if handled immediately.

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What should always be top of mind is the ease and anonymity of social media on the consumer side. It’s (mostly) very safe for consumers to vent to brands about their dissatisfaction without holding anything back. You’ve got to keep this in mind as you monitor conversations, and be aware of any negativity gaining ground. A few users complaining back and forth seems harmless initially, but a viral disaster ultimately starts with a single tweet or post.

This makes it wise to share social data with other departments in your organization, including customer service, sales, product development, managers and C-suite executives. Each department can gain from social insights and improve their part in creating the consumer experience.

When consumers are happy, they’ll share the good news and help your brand shine. When they’re not? Well, you just don’t ever want it to come to that. With smart application of social media intelligence, it doesn’t have to.

Want to see what consumers are saying about your brand? Get in touch for a live demo of the NetBase platform.

Image from Lisa Nottingham

E-Book: How Strategic Brands Avoid a Social Crisis

 

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