How Can Brands Turn Social Media Crises Into Opportunities Trolls have the power to destroy your brand image, and you as a brand have the opportunity to set it right with an efficient social media campaign

By Sanchita Dash

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We live in times when a brand's popularity is measured by its social media worth. How many followers do they have on Twitter?, How many likes on Facebook? etc., are the questions that define the brand and its relationship with its audience.

But these are also times when a customer interacts with the brand on social media. Haven't we all been witness to Twitterattis reaching out to brands to complain about their quality of products or delivery issues etc.? Brands too are actively engaging with their audience and addressing to their queries online.

However, there are also negative reviews which go viral on social media, encouraging many more to come out of hiding and talk about the brand. In such situations, brands have to be careful and ensure they deal with it right. Trolls have the power to destroy your brand image, and you as a brand have the opportunity to set it right with an efficient social media campaign.

This makes one wonder, how can you turn around a negative review or criticism, which is a user's right to express or a campaign gone wrong into your favour. We spoke to social media experts and brand consultants to find out.

The Power of Social Media

A case in highlight is cab aggregator app Ola's response to a user claiming to have refused a cab as the driver was a Muslim. Ola didn't delay its response and said, "Ola, like our country, is a secular platform, and we don't discriminate our driver partners or customers basis their caste, religion, gender or creed. We urge all our customers and driver partners to treat each other with respect at all times."

While the tweet got 11k retweets and 23k likes, it also resulted in an unplanned campaign in Ola's favour. Tweeples started joking about why they refused an Ola cab because of a silly reason, all in good humour, which only led to Ola's popularity. Another user even spoke about how she had deleted Ola from her phone but is ready to ride again with the app because of the company's response.

While the Ola example is a one-off case, there are many other examples of resentment online which have led to the brand taking a hit. Amazon India too came under the fire because of their support towards actress Swara Bhaskar who had spoken about the Kathua rape incident. Extremists decided to call out the company and asked users to uninstall the app. Amazon went on to delete the tweet about the actress, resulting in many others questioning the move.

Similar resentment was seen against Snapdeal, when its brand ambassador Aamir Khan was declared anti-national by extremists.

Advertising campaigns too have gone wrong. Kalyan Jewellers had faced the ire of their audience for portraying racism through their ad. In the advertisement, actress Aishwarya Rai was resting with a dark-skinned slave boy fanning her.

Take Control of the Narrative

A brand crisis on social media represents one of two things - An underlying but prevalent opinion about the brand or a negative sentiment that has reached a watershed moment, said Sahil Siddiqui, Associate Vice President, Creative Strategy, WATConsult. Siddiqui believes that the overlook and ignore strategy rarely works in the rapid opinion shifting world of social media.

"The best way forward usually is to face it head-on and "address the concerns or mistakes'. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to give wind to conversations that potentially harm your brand, it is the only way to be in control of the narrative," said Siddiqui.

Social Brand Crisis Management

Brands cannot ignore a social media crisis. They have to come ahead and address the problem. Raghavendra Hunasgi, a global marketing & branding leader who has worked for the likes of the United Nation, calls this the social brand crisis management. Especially when you are dealing with products, Hunasgi believes that there are many positive campaigns that don't catch the snowball effect but negative reviews go viral.

While dealing with a negative situation, Hunasgi said that a brand should never confront but instead, respond by understanding the problem and giving proof points in their favour. "Try to give it a day's time and plan parallel positive campaigns by featuring customers that are happy. Boost your outreach accordingly and it will automatically impact your brand positively," he said. According to Hunasgi, customer advocacy works best.

If you are dealing with multiple products, it is best to leave the one product that is dealing with negative feedback alone for some time, added Hunasgi.

When the negative feedback is beyond your control, Hunasgi believes it is best to admit your mistake and talk about corrective measures, the policies in place to combat the issue etc.

Bringing Out the Opportunity in a Crisis

An ideal scenario would be when a negative campaign can be turned into the brand's favour, believes Hunasgi. "Look at the larger scheme of things and work on improving your product," he said.

This could also be a turning point for a brand. Siddiqui added that there are enough case studies now of brands all over the world going both ways with crisis management and they should be studied in developing an emergency crisis-management protocol." Alternately, in rare occasions, brands can use a crisis situation as an opportunity to bring about a fundamental change to business direction and brand perception that may otherwise would need a completely different PR exercise. In a nutshell, the way forward from any crisis is to see the crisis for what it represents rather than what it is," said Siddiqui.

Sanchita Dash

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

In the business of news for 5 years now. Making my way across India thanks to my career. A media graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, I have earlier worked with Deccan Chronicle (South India's leading English daily), T-Hub (India's largest incubator) and Anthill Ventures (a speed-scaling platform). 

Stories, movies and PJs are my thing. 

If you hear 'The Office' opening score randomly, don't worry it's just my phone ringing. 


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