How your small business should handle social media backlash

3 min read

You probably have noticed how susceptible brands are to a community’s perception of the brand and what it stands for. Community in this context refers to a small or large unit/group of people and this can be people on social media, a religious group of people, people of a particular culture etc.

One thing most, if not all communities have in common in today’s times is social media. They share what makes them feel good as well as their grievances, news, stories and for the purpose of this post, lash out at erring brands.

With 68.3 percent of internet users and one-third of the global population on social media, it’s an undeniable force and a powerful tool these communities wield that can make, mar or pose a temporary damage to a brand’s image or offering with serious consequences.

You don’t need to ask Pepsi or imagine a small business facing similar backlash to understand the effects it can have on a brand. With that said, below are tips to help you avoid a social media backlash.

Understand Cultural Codes

This helps you understand what will appeal and resonate with your audience(s) as well as what wouldn’t and behavioural responses. To do this, you need to identify with their values, ideas and concepts. For example, you will be asking for a backlash if you project your brand as sexist; feminists will jump on you faster than a lion on its prey.

Be careful with Sensitive issues

It’s okay to try and link your brand with positive emotions or concepts but when it involves sensitive issues, you need to tread carefully or steer clear of it. To do this, you need to think like your audience, get as many different opinions on your idea as possible to avoid having a controversy to deal with and remember to never try to commercialise a social or political issue.

Clearly Define your Context

Define how you want your audience to conceptualise and develop strategies to make them see or get the exact message or idea you want to pass across. Examples of campaigns that could have gone wrong are Pepsi Longthroat and Indomie bellefull campaigns if their context hadn’t been clearly defined with many offended and refusing to buy the new products because they feel insulted. The context here was action and not a descriptor with Pepsi signifying yearning for more and Indomie signifying satisfaction.

Sell your Idea

How you sell your idea matters, from the image, to the copy used and how you tell your story every step of the way etc. Review and make changes as necessary before signing off on them.

Nevertheless, even the biggest brands make unexpected mistakes too. So what do you do if you make a mistake that results into a backlash? Whatever you do, don’t do the following:

1. Don’t pretend like it never happened. Respond quickly by apologising sincerely.

2. Don’t complicate things by being defensive. Own up to the fact that you made a questionable choice. If you must offer an explanation, do it right and not in an unapologetic manner.

Depending on what led to the backlash and if the situation warrants it, have a dialogue on social media about the issues raised by the negative reactions and explain how you are working on making things better.

Moving forward, develop a win back strategy, ensure you exceed expectations through better services or product offerings, monitor trends, know which to and which not to jump on and focus on communicating rightly your core values.

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