Isn’t social media fantastic? You can reach millions of people in seconds around the world, offering unrivalled opportunities to engage on a one-to-one level with your customers. But as with all things, there’s always a dark side, ready to bite you.
It’s no use ignoring it, or thinking ‘it won’t happen to me’. Instead you need to prepare for the inevitable. People share bad stuff online. All the time. We won’t touch on the ‘why’ in this blog (unless you have a few thousand hours to spare!), instead we’ve shared four of the most common risks you need to be aware of, and what action you can take now, so you’re ready when they bite. Read on…
A brand attack is when a large number of unhappy users or customers launch a barrage of negative comments about you online, with the intention of harming or damaging your brand. The attack can be in response to a multitude of things that your brand has apparently been responsible for (true or not), e.g. not treating workers fairly, sourcing products from unsustainable places, placing ads that offend key groups. Competing brands can also be responsible, as can organized activist groups.
One danger in spotting a brand attack is that it can be difficult to recognize the fine line between strong customer opinion and the on-set of a hate campaign against your brand. They can start out quite innocently as a simple (real) customer complaint, that activists use to push their agenda and create an emotional response.
Activist groups are particularly fond of social media. They use it to reach out quickly to huge audiences online, often using shocking and provocative images and videos that quickly go viral. These conversations are not happening on your own channels though. The vast majority of people who discuss brands online do not even follow their social channels.
Activist attacks can last up to 130 days, with one new Facebook comment sent every minute at an attack’s most viral point. Source: Crisp Labs.
You can’t prevent a brand attack from happening, but being aware of it before it gets a chance to escalate can give you the crucial time needed to get your defenses in order. The very worst thing you can do is be caught unawares. To do that you need 24/7/365 monitoring on your social media and the wider web, together with bespoke escalation and moderation on your brand’s own social media channels.
Social PR crisis
These days it can take just one tweet about an incident for a brand to have a social media PR crisis on its hands. Take United Airlines for instance. Videos of a bloodied passenger being dragged off a flight went viral in just a few hours. They got a head start too as the event took place in the early hours of a Monday morning – giving the PR team a rather interesting way to start their week! By the time the press came a-knocking, and it was too late to prepare.
Rapid response times are again critical for nipping a PR crisis in the bud. The minute a post starts gaining momentum, your PR and corporate affairs teams need to know, so that they can instruct social media teams to calm the storm by quickly addressing contentious comments. ‘Always on’ monitoring and moderation services are essential to being alert and aware 24/7.
Remember that you can always take action to head crises off at the pass too. Make it part of your social media strategy to respond to repeated negative sentiment, report abusive comments to the social platform and actively manage comments on your own pages to remove anything deemed inappropriate. This way you are constantly keeping back the tide and reducing the threat of a PR crisis escalating.
Abuse, offensive content and hate speech
Foul language, trolling, sexual innuendo, hate speech, terrorism propaganda, drug promotion, gore imagery, child abuse imagery – the list of unsavory user-generated content that could be left on your social media pages goes on.
You may think that your fans wouldn’t possibly resort to posting that sort of content. And in 92% of cases you’d be right. Of the 12 billion items of user-generated content that we check every year however, we’ve found that 7% are offensive or inappropriate, and 1% represent the most serious cases of real and imminent danger to lives, brand reputation or stock prices. One per cent may seem small, but one post can have a major impact.
Leaving these comments unmoderated can seriously damage customers’ opinion of your brand. They must be addressed immediately, and in serious cases, removed. Beware of ‘whitewashing’ all negative comments and general opinion from your social channels though as this is considered poor brand management and can result in retaliatory comments which escalate into a full-scale brand attack (see risk #1!).
Social media moderation is the key here. Make sure all managed social media channels fully reflect your brand and brand values.
Scams and fake accounts
Scams on social media channels are nothing new but they are getting increasingly sophisticated. Typical scams we see today focus on taking advantage of unsuspecting victims by directing them to unsecure websites, get-rich-quick schemes, or even stealing your brand’s business by linking your customers to counterfeit goods.
Scammers can also register fake profiles using your brand name and logo. This so-called ‘angler phishing’ pretends to be your brand’s customer service page and dupes your customers into giving away personal and financial details, leaving them open to identity theft.
Luckily, spotting these scams is easy if you have social media moderation in place. They can be removed in a matter of minutes. As with all the risks highlighted in this blog, the trick is finding them and dealing with them. Fast.
To protect your brand, social media teams must be prepared for any and all of these risks. You can do this by proactively monitoring and moderating your managed social accounts and monitoring the wider web for the telltale signs.
And in case you’re thinking it won’t happen to you. Consider this. In the last year alone we’ve uncovered over 147,000 brand attacks, more than 176,000 severely abusive posts and almost 140,000 PR issues against our clients.
There is always a darker side to social media. But as long as you prepare for it, you can enjoy all the benefits that it offers to grow your brand.