Social media: Changing the landscape of brand image
Posted on December 3, 2017

Social media has become the modern framework of communication. According to Statista, by 2018 the number of social media users is set to be around 2.62 billion from the current population of 2.46 billion users. With this exponential increase, social media has become a strategic tool to increase brand awareness. However, more than often companies have given social media the liberty in itself to be used as a destructive weapon to stain their public image.

Everything spreads like wildfire on social media sites. On 10th April, 2017a video of a passenger being forcefully dragged in dripping blood from a United Airlines passenger plane quickly went viral in the internet. The anti-branding slogans made headlines with United Continental Holdings’ stock price dropping by more than 4% at one point, temporarily wiping close to USD 1 billion off the company’s total market value, according to Thomson Reuters. The company issued apology statements from the CEO and paid an undisclosed settlement amount to compensate for their mistake.

This case is a major reminder for brands that issuing a timely statement that acknowledges the error and shows remorse is extremely essential.Through the timely clarifications and apologies on unreasonable behaviors with statements promising to redefine the approach, companiescan mitigate the loss.

During the month of the United Airlines controversy, an advertisement of Pepsi starring celebrity Kendall Jenner also stormed the social media sites.The ad video depicted Jenner as a model-turned-protester who miraculously calms tensions at a racially-diverse peace demonstration by handing a police officer a can of Pepsi. The ad went viral with users accusing Pepsi for using movement such as Black Lives matter for commercial gain and wrongful selection of Jenner as protagonist.

In another similar social media outcry, Unilever brand’s leading product Dove uploaded a 3 second video which showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman after the use of its body wash. This horrendous ad brought up flashbacks of racist soap ads from the 19th and early 20th century. Social media outrage began with phrases such as #BoycottDove which spread initially from the US users to the European nations.

Interestingly, both Pepsi and Dove stated it had “missed the mark” after negative publicity erupted online over the brands in social media.Both the brands ended up pulling the videos from any further promotions and apologized for the chaos.

According to a study by the World Economic Forum in 2012, on average more than 25% of a company’s market value is directly attributable to its reputation. With the lines blurring between social media networks and review sites, whatever the customers write becomes a tangent part of your company’s history. With the change in landscape, monetary value associated with social media is increasing. Social media strategy should be the focus for companies today. Social media accounts should be used to build rapport and maintain relationship. It would be beneficial to monitor the actions and reactions of customers 24/7 so that companies can confront the issues at hand in almost real time.

More so, crisis management strategy should always be at hand. Companies are required to map out all the mistakes and rectifications steps to be taken so that when in actual crisis the company can use it in the best way possible. Along with this a good HR is essential. For opinions to differ and be rich in content, workforce diversity is key. A good HR makes sure that emotional intelligence is emphasized and the sentiments of the audience are respected. When a disaster occurs through social media, companies should leverage it in the best way possible to placate the issue and mend terms with the social media users.

Pummy Agrawal, Senior Analyst at A2Z Insights

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