Growing social media uncertainty increases risks to brand reputation
Social media is undergoing rapid change and it has put brand reputations at risk. This uncertainty didn’t develop overnight — although it’s been exacerbated by recent Trust & Safety team layoffs and chaos in the industry. The tension has been building for years and consumers are taking notice. Our latest “Brands at Risk” consumer study explores why brand communities are the new battleground for reputation.
The fight to safeguard brand reputation
No brand is immune to harmful content on social media as our research found. Both brand-owned social media pages and advertising campaigns have become ground zero for safeguarding brand reputation. Negative commentary has skyrocketed across social media platforms and its damaging effects are far-reaching.
Brand reputation can be built to great heights on social media and burnt just as quickly. Harmful content can occur day or night, and the types of comments and attacks have grown considerably. Social media teams are encountering a variety of increasingly toxic and dangerous digital chatter in the form of hate and abuse, spam, company criticism, sexualized content and activist-led attacks. While social media platforms wrestle with content moderation policies, brands are left vulnerable to more reputational risks.
The fight hits close to home as digital chatter has taken root on brand-owned social media pages and ad campaigns. A seemingly innocuous brand post can quickly be co-opted by inauthentic activity or brand detractors within the first few minutes and escalate rapidly. What’s more, as brands enter the conversation around social issues, social media channels act as a veritable town square for consumers to respond in both positive and negative ways.
Consumers notice more and tolerate less
Consumers recognize the rise in harmful content on social media and they’re holding brands more accountable. However, their expectations may not always align with what in-house social media teams are equipped to handle. Social media never stops, let alone slows down. That means, time is not on a brand’s side. Without swift and decisive action, brands stand to lose by inadvertently pushing consumers away.
How prevalent a problem is harmful content? According to our study, one in three consumers have encountered negative commentary on a brand’s own pages. What’s more, two in five recognize an increase in derogatory, offensive or hurtful comments on a brand’s ads. Turning away isn’t an option as a majority (73%) read user comments on social media ads. Consumers want brands to do something — and fast. More than three-fifths (63%) expect harmful content addressed within an hour, and half of those consumers want it addressed instantly.
Brands may unknowingly contribute to pushing consumers away. More brands are taking a stand on social media about divisive social issues, such as reproductive rights and gun control. Seven of 10 consumers have noticed, but views are mixed on whether brands have a right to enter the conversation on social media. While some stances will resonate with some consumers, brands will push a certain percentage away who don’t support or agree with the brand’s position. Either way, social media teams can bank on consumers telling brands where they stand.
The stakes are rising for brands as both consumer voices and dollars demonstrate. Per our research, 90 percent of consumers believe harmful content on brand-owned social media pages can negatively impact reputation. To further complicate matters for brands, a sizable portion of consumers (43%) report that negative commentary deters them from purchasing a product or service.
Social media teams need reinforcements
As harmful content skyrockets across social media platforms, social media teams are bearing an impossible task. While some brands remain skittish about social media, abandoning these platforms is not an option as they deliver direct consumer engagement and access to massive global audiences. That leaves teams on the frontlines of brand reputation grappling not only more complicated moderation challenges, but also increasingly complicated ones, in a volatile landscape.
It’s a hard job that’s only getting harder. With more platforms than ever before, a social media team’s scope has intensified. With each additional channel, social media teams are playing a game of defense to protect online communities and brand reputation. The volume and velocity of digital chatter can often drown out and disrupt genuine brand advocacy and buying signals, such as pricing or availability questions. As a result, instead of promoting and responding to positive comments, teams are on cleanup duty to remove inappropriate commentary in real time.
The rapid-fire global nature of social media today demands a level of attention and vigilance that social media teams struggle to meet on their own. With more people online all over the world, digital chatter has grown unmanageable without the people and technological resources to relieve and support teams. The pressure and stressors on teams are well documented from social media team leaders and even celebrities. Team members are leaving the role for a host of reasons, including the trauma of “scrolling through hateful comments,” reports Digiday. This potential exodus leaves brands even further exposed to harmful content online.
The best defense for brands is a good offense
Understanding the state of social media today and its rising stressors on social media teams is an important first step. Corporate boards and executive teams acknowledge the dangers of social media. A Forrester analysis of 75 10-K reports revealed all are aware of the importance of protecting brand reputation, with two-thirds (67%) acknowledging the impact social media has on it. Navigating this challenge requires a shift in mindset and strategy that starts from the top down to help defend brand reputation in a riskier digital environment.
It’s time to bring some offense to a social media team’s defense. As the year comes to a close, we strongly encourage social media leaders to conduct an audit of their online communities for both their brand’s and their team’s health. Below are a few questions to help teams get started. This exercise is intended to identify and address gaps that exist, as well as what resources or risk intelligence are needed to address them:
- What are the current policies for each kind of harmful content, such as consumer complaints, personal threats, and sexist, offensive or hateful comments?
- What is the process for escalating risks that emerge on brand-owned social media pages and ads?
- What moderation solutions or partners are currently being used and how many failures have been recorded?
- Which languages are, or are not, currently supported? And is there a firm understanding of associated cultural nuance?
- What known topics have emerged as risks to the organization via brand-owned social media pages and ad campaigns?
- How many actor groups who posed a risk were flagged and removed last year?
- Do current moderation policies need to be updated to reflect current events, issues, and situations from this past year?
- What is the average response time, during business hours, outside of and during holidays?
- Which markets require moderation and are they receiving it 24/7/365?
- What is the process to add resources when a surge in activity occurs due to extenuating circumstances?
Increasing headcount during surges in activity, whether in-house or by outsourcing, is one way to show support of the important work social media teams do, but it’s not always sustainable. Alternatively, leading companies turn to Crisp for help. Crisp protects brands by monitoring, moderating and removing harmful content from their social media pages and ad campaigns, fast. We act as a natural extension of your team, amplifying its efforts with 24/7/365 coverage across social media platforms and time zones.
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