Dachis Group Advises Making Brand Friends Online, You'll Need Them Someday

4 minute read
Barry Levine avatar

Remember the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity? Whoever came up with that obviously never met social media. A new whitepaper from Dachis Group suggests some techniques for using brand advocacy to counteract bad-mouthing. 

The report, “Managing Reputation with Brand Advocacy,” points to a case history that shows how quickly a single bad event, however small, can be magnified through social media.

Earlier this year, KFC was buffeted by a photo in which a chicken nugget appeared to contain what looked to be brain matter. Zillions of shared links and a related hashtag later, the company’s multi-million dollar marketing budget went down the drain as the image repulsed countless numbers of customers. KFC had few tools to respond, and the damage was done.

Fighting Fire with Fire

Dachis’ solution: fight fire with fire. If social media denizens can take down your brand, how about nurturing a group of brand advocates to buck it up again? The research firm said its data platform, which tracks the social activity of 30,000 brands and more than a quarter million brand advocates, has shown that advocates can generate almost 30% of the earned media impressions for a brand -- even though they might represent only .001% of social subscribers.

Additionally, the white paper cited one survey that found 61% of respondents trust “a person like yourself” to be a credible spokesperson for a brand. In other words, a peer vouching for a brand is worth more credibility than more authoritative figures, such as CEOs, financial analysts or governmental officials.

Take the zombie war that AMC unleashed on the Dish network after the satellite provider dropped the network's programs, and bad mouthed AMC because of alleged high carry fees and low-rated content.

Zombies to the Rescue

In retaliation, AMC marshalled its eleven branded social channels, asking followers to let DISH know that, for instance, the network’s zombie series The Walking Dead was the highest rated scripted drama on television. Among other actions, AMC also unleashed zombie-dressed characters onto New York streets, urging that photos and videos be posted via Twitter and YouTube, and asking AMC fans to create and share videos about DISH-related complaints. The result: DISH took AMC back.

While a company can always dress up employees as zombies and send them out to Times Square, it’s harder to have an army of brand advocates ready to respond. The report suggests ways to nurture and build such a defensive force, which, in good times, can act offensively by spreading the brand message.

Learning Opportunities

One example is MyStarbucksIdea.com, where the company encourages coffee-lovers to offer suggestions, comment and vote. Implemented ideas include the green splashguards on coffee cups. Visitors who are invested enough in the company to make suggestions or voice their opinions might also be ready to speak out in favor of the brand, if the need arose.

Learn and Improve

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From the report, "Managing Reputation with Brand Advocacy"

Like the sudden hit of bad publicity experienced by KFC, LIVESTRONG had to counter the tidal wave of bad press after the charity’s founder, Lance Armstrong, was banned from cycling for doping. The charity responded by issuing videos, images and other testimonials of actual cancer survivors and their families the charity had helped, and then disseminating them across social channels. As a result, the charity is now continuing after only a small hit to its contributions.

The LIVESTRONG example, however, points to one weakness in the Dachis Group whitepaper. Certainly, countering bad publicity is an art form with a long history that extends before the first tweet or “like” ever circulated.

What isn't completely clear in the whitepaper is the difference between dissemination of counter-arguments through social channels -- that is, content publishing and action requests -- and actually using a band of brand warriors to perform those functions. The two overlap of course, but if you have a large number of Twitter followers for the brand, as an example, what are examples of the value of the tiny minority who love and proselytize the brand?

To nurture and sustain brand advocacy, the whitepaper recommends several key steps. Begin by defining objectives, then identify, recruit, activate, amplify and measure advocates. Finally, learn and improve.