When Social Media Attacks: Media Mavens Mull Counter-Strategies

One of the great paralyzing fears for advertisers considering social media strategies is the potential for blowback in the form of negative comments from consumers in the very spaces intended to promote a product or service. The usual response from digital media types -- "they're going to be saying these things about you anyway, so you might as well get involved" -- is inarguable, but scarcely reassuring without pointers for how to deal with such situations. To fill this methodological gap, Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia's recent "Social Media and Online PR Report" offers some suggestions for damage control based on a survey of 344 advertisers already operating in social media in the UK, Europe, and North America.

As one might expect, there is no magic bullet for countering negative comments: the two most popular responses were directly engaging the commenter, a tactic used by 47% of social media advertisers surveyed, and improving the quality of products or services being advertised, according to 33% of respondents.



Aside from these commonsensical but labor-intensive propositions, what other short-term fixes can online advertisers employ in dealing with negative comments? One strategy is neutralizing the negative comment, either by encouraging other consumers to leave positive comments (24%) or attempting to get the content removed by the publisher or blogger (14%).

On the other hand, the report warns that the medium's inherent transparency makes these sorts of manipulative tactics dangerous, increasing the risk for negative publicity if they are discovered. A less risky short-term strategy endorsed by 17% of respondents is issuing a press release or official statement addressing the issues raised in negative comments.

It's worth noting that none of these suggestions are mutually exclusive, and may be more effective when employed in concert: for example, social media marketers have pointed out that issuing a press release without engaging the consumer who actually made the negative comment leaves advertisers open to charges of insincerity, indifference, and flat-out incompetence.

When it comes to tracking online sentiment, 47% of respondents said they use Twitter for "brand monitoring," while 27% use the site for responding to customer service issues, 25% use it to gather customer feedback, and 23% use it for market intelligence. Thirty-four percent of companies surveyed said they responded to negative tweets "systematically."

Twitter is even more popular as a channel for publicizing new content, with 62% of respondents saying they used it for that purpose. Only 14% of respondents reported using Twitter as a sales channel, and 21% said they didn't use it for any of the purposes listed above.

5 comments about "When Social Media Attacks: Media Mavens Mull Counter-Strategies".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., December 31, 2009 at 12:07 p.m.

    And herein lie the rub: if you use a two way channel of communication to shamelessly huckster you may get that same spew coughed back onto your nice new suit. In one of our online endeavors we do product evaluations, but we do them LIVE without any setup. We tell the product manufacturer we're going to do this - and guess what, we only get stuff that really works. Look, this is the internet folks, you simply can't hide behind smoke, mirrors and positioning statements. People talk here - and if you're gonna get social you're gonna go to some bad parties.

  2. David Everitt-carlson from Infinite Wisdom Consulting, December 31, 2009 at 8:28 p.m.

    Last year United Airlines won the social media blunder prize: http://wildwildeastdailies.blogspot.com/2009/08/detri-viral-marketing-ii-top-ten.html Wonder who will stumble next?

  3. Elena Haliczer, January 4, 2010 at 3:39 p.m.

    The Huffington Post and a number of other publications are using my company's product, JuLiA, an automatic community moderation system in conjunction with their editorial staff to keep comments under control. You can read more about the way HuffPost is using our product at SemanticWeb: http://www.semanticweb.com/interviews/huffington_post_moderates_90000_comments_each_day_using_semantics_147270.asp

  4. John Capone from Robb Report, January 4, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.

    @elana: Are you implying that the Huffington Post moderates for comments that might be unfriendly to advertisers? That's what it seems.

    Also, it is somewhat surprising that someone who works for a company that moderates comments would think it's acceptable to use our comments section as a forum for naked self-promotion.

  5. Elena Haliczer, January 15, 2010 at 3:04 a.m.

    @John HuffPost uses our product to moderate the comment section according to their community standards. So far this is not directly tied to advertising. As to 'naked self-promotion', my point, if a bit heavy-handed, was that publications are looking at ways to 'take back' their communities and this goes a long way to help alleviate the concerns of advertisers. I think you need to start by cleaning up content provider sites, but that's my take. There is another company (one of our competitors in fact) taking a different approach to the problem and it may be more immediately applicable to you. I recommend checking out: http://www.openamplify.com/

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