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Comment: How can brands build on social media success without alienating the crowd?


By The Drum, Editorial

October 31, 2011 | 4 min read

Earlier today, Dove saw the popularity of its Facebook page soar, when it made a comment about an incident of bullying that had apparently taken place to one contestant during this weekend's broadcast of The X-Factor. Within an hour the one comment had over 2,000 likes an over 100 comments in reaction. But how can a brand capitalise on such a moment without spoiling the initial positive reaction? Jonathan Priestley, account manager for Leeds PR and social media consultancy Umpf, discusses.

The heartfelt and swift reaction to Dove’s status update following revelations of bullying on ITV’s X-Factor shows the power of social media to move and engage an audience.

Dove’s comment was so well received because it aligned very closely to the brand’s overall positioning of inner beauty. However, what many marketers will be wondering in light of the groundswell of consumer support is ‘What can we do to capitalise on this?’

Firstly, it’s important that we recognise and identify whether a brand has achieved social media traction organically or through more concerted means. That Dove attracted such support for a one-off comment shows that this is more organic than, for example, a special Facebook tab on a pre-planned anti-bullying campaign. Because of this, marketers would do well to tread with caution; the crowd is notoriously fickle and social media can cause consumers to switch from being ardent fans to vitriolic enemies in the click of a mouse button or the tap of an iPad screen.

With this kind of organic and un-planned support, the best way for brands to continue to build on this using social media is to continue to be altruistic and selfless. The moment a brand starts appearing self-serving and capitalising on grassroots support, consumers’ alarm bells will ring and they will become cynical. Or worse, start to turn their fire on the brand itself.

One way that Dove could build on this support is to point its social media followers in the direction of well-established and regulated anti-bullying charities. After all, cyber-bullying is big news, with ‘internet trolls’ frequently hitting the headlines. By efficiently signposting various online support networks and charities through social media, Dove could effectively ‘own’ this territory and build a reputation for being the foremost beauty brand to speak out against cyber-bullying. Not only will this serve to underline the brand’s ‘inner beauty’ messaging, but Dove will continue to appear altruistic and keep online consumers onside.

Building on this, the brand could crowdsource a ‘charity of the month’ that supported victims of cyber bullying. This could be hosted on a bespoke tab on its Facebook page inviting fans to choose, by way of a voting mechanism, the charity they wished the brand to donate money to each month; the online community is engaged and grown, money goes to a great cause and the brand is shown to put its money where its mouth is. In short, everyone’s a winner.

It is very tempting for brands to want to capitalise commercially on grassroots support, but social media can be an unforgiving landscape and only the most squeaky-clean activity will continue to pay dividends in terms of consumer support.

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