Surge in harmful online content reveals major risks to brands

Consumer Survey Uncovers Critical Look at Harmful Content, Its Effect on Consumers, and Expectations of Brands

A consumer survey by Crisp, the leading provider of early-warning risk intelligence, has revealed how a recent surge in harmful digital chatter has put brand loyalty, corporate reputation, and purchase intent at risk.

These risks have been further amplified by an increase in digital chatter about Black Lives Matter, the global pandemic, divisive politics, and accusations of inequality directly associated with brands. Survey respondents, on average, saw four of these topics, among others, shared about a brand on social media.

While some of these conversations come from concerned and engaged consumers, others are driven by instigators intent on disrupting online experiences and using brands to forward their malicious agendas. This can erode brand loyalty and adversely affect investments in social media advertising.

“Brand platforms are increasingly being exploited to amplify societal issues, and advance movements counter to what they stand for,” said Adam Hildreth, CEO and founder of Crisp. “If left unaddressed, this makes it incredibly challenging for consumers not to associate this harmful content with the values and leadership of the brand. Our survey results are concerning, but there is something that can be done about it.”

To help brands address this, Crisp surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to understand their experiences and expectations related to the harmful content found online. The results provide new insight into how consumers react and what they expect brands to do.

For brand-owned social media pages, we found that:

  • 68% of respondents had seen a significant rise in the frequency of negative commentary;
  • 63% give brands an hour to address inappropriate or harmful content on their pages, with roughly half of those respondents (34%) expecting it to be taken care of instantly; and
  • 60% say inappropriate or harmful comments reflect poorly on the values of a brand and its leadership.

The survey also revealed consumers’ increased expectations of brands as it relates to their sponsored social media ads, including:

  • 72% confirm they have looked at other users’ comments on those ads;
  • 51% believe they have seen an increase in derogatory, offensive, or hurtful comments on social media ads; and
  • 43% decided not to purchase the item or service upon seeing individuals' negative comments about the company sponsoring the ad.

These issues, and this harmful content, have landed at the doorstep of brands, and consumers demand that they act, and act quickly. This survey provides the information required for brands to understand what consumers expect—and where they might need to adjust their strategies to align with those expectations.

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