How To: Deal With Negative Online Sentiment About Your Brand

This article, by Maria Ogneva, originally appeared on Mashable on 2/21/11. Maria Ogneva is the Head of Community at Yammer, where she is in charge of social media and community programs, and internal education and engagement. You can follow her on Twitter, her blog, and via Yammer’s Twitter account and company blog.

Brands try to inspire excitement among their communities so that their fans and supporters will do the selling for them. That’s called advocacy, and it’s much more powerful than self-promotion. There are of course many ways to cultivate that fan base and get your advocates motivated

On the flip side, however, are “badvocates” –- the folks who spread negative comments about you with their networks. For example, Kevin Smith’s experience with Southwest Airlines.

It’s important for any business learn how to handle this badvocacy. To do so, you must first understand its causes.

Causes of Badvocacy

In most cases, badvocacy is a result of negative experiences with your brand. These can come from:

  • Inconsistency across channels and touchpoints. With social media, you can touch the customer at any point in the purchase cycle: Pre-purchase, during, and post-purchase. Each of those interactions has to add value and be consistent with the rest of the experience.

    Let’s take support as an example. When you provide multi-channel support, you need to be careful about creating a consistent experience across all channels. Twitter support tends to lead other channels in its ability to provide individual solutions to customers. Other channels tend to lag behind. How many times have you called a support line only to have them route you to another 800 number because information you are looking for is in a different database? An inconsistent user experience can breed bad experiences. 

  • Inconsistency with expectations. Several times, I’ve gotten excited about a product based on the advertised promise, only to discover that that expectation was wrong. This type of disconnect certainly breeds negative feelings because time, effort and possibly money were wasted. 
  • A negative relationship with people who represent the company. Social media can humanize your brand, if used correctly. It’s important, however, that everyone adheres to the highest codes of conduct and is on the same page about company’s policies, news, product and feature releases, etc. A negative interaction with any person, whether in social or traditional channels, will mar the user’s view of the brand. 

Chronic Complainers

Read the rest of the article, which offers specific strategies for dealing with and preventing "Badvocacy" on Mashable.