Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ignore it and it will go away... right?

A friend of mine works in a place where the understanding by big organisations and brands of social media and digital communications are not as developed as those of say the USA and Western Europe. He’s facing the problem where his potential clients simply don’t see the benefit of communicating with digital audiences, especially on negative issues.

This is something that I thought had bee addressed on a global scale a few years back. So I was a little surprised to hear that the large organisations he is talking to still have an “ignore it and it will go away” attitude.
So what should he say to those he is pitching to who believe they can ignore negative sentiment and that online comments cannot affect a brand?

So let's take each part separately:
 
1. Ignoring negative sentiment
  • Remember that any comment (negative or positive) stays on the Internet for as long as it is hosted. This means that content posted to popular blogs and social platforms could stay there indefinitely. You can no longer bury bad news on the web!
  • Search engines love popular, relevant & regularly-updated content, therefore its possible that a popular negative article or blog posting could affect a brand’s organic rankings (meaning they could even get deposed from the top of Google for their own brand terms or more realistically that more SEO budget is needed to keep them there).
  • Those people who post negative comments don't go away, they pop up at any time and continue their comments (especially if there is new activity around the subject)
    As an example of this, I once had a prospect who had the same negative TV clips uploaded to YouTube about them. They wanted to send a lawyers letter, I wanted them to film a response. (They eventually did what they wanted and the same clip then appeared in several other places online).
    These have been called Badvocates (Bad advocates), the opposite of brand ambassadors, and I even blogged about this in 2009:
    http://press20.blogspot.com/2009/10/are-you-brand-bashing-badvocate.html
    So you should expect the same sort of passion that your most prized followers and fans have... but in reverse. 
2. It's impossible to impact the information about the company or brand
Ha ha ha.... that's both arrogant and ignorant in this modern world

For a really good example of this from several years back (but that is still relevant today) check out the case about "Dell Hell" that I have blogged about a few years back:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2005/aug/29/mondaymediasection.blogging
http://www.customerthink.com/article/you_can_learn_dell_hell_dell_did

In short, Jeff Jarvis wrote about bad service from the PC manufacturer and it snowballed into a huge customer service & reputation issue for Dell. In the end Dell decided to address this and eventually set up a focused social media team to monitor, address and grow engagement across the web.

Now why would Dell do this? Because it was creating a negative effect on its brand and its revenues.....
A few years on from Dell Hell there are now loads of examples about how brands have had to spend lots of money to counter negative publicity that either started or grew online.

For example:
http://www.bulletproofblog.com/2008/11/19/motrin-moms-show-their-social-media-savvy/
http://www.bulletproofblog.com/2009/07/28/youtube-video-targeted-at-united-airlines-strikes-a-chord/
http://www.directorship.com/dominos-discovers-social-media/

Sure, you can spend your way out of trouble each time to try and bury/block/buy strategies. But that can be both expensive and reactionary, neither of which are approaches that the shareholders of large companies appreciate.

Taking the 20th century view that these issue will just go away over time is no longer the way to communicate, engage and grown your business.
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