How to protect your biz from ‘Terrible Taggers and Mommy Bloggers’

Imagine how it would feel to be punched every 90 seconds for three weeks straight.

That was basically what Nestle went through online early this year when Greenpeace launched its “recipe for destruction campaign” which slammed  the food maker for using palm oil from companies that wrecked rainforests in Indonesia and left orangutans homeless, according to competitive analyst and author Richard Telofski.

A Greenpeace video that parodied Nestle’s Get a Break commercial for the popular KitKat chocolate bar went viral online and the environmentalist group also called on people to demand that Nestle “give the rainforest a break,” he said. The video showed a bored employee taking a break by opening a KitKat bar. But the after the worker unwraps his snack, he bites into what appears to be an orangutan’s finger instead of a piece of chocolate.

“It was bloody. The Greenpeace campaign went on Facebook and then Twitter. On average, Nestle took a hit every 90 seconds for more than three weeks,” said Telofski.

Have a break? from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.

Spoofed KitKat ad

Rival brands use to be the direct competitors of businesses in their aim to place their company in a better light before consumers. For instance Coca Cola’s nemesis was universally considered to be Pepsi Co.

Today, non-government and activist groups such as Greenpeace, so-called Terrible Taggers, and brigades of Mommy Bloggers who use social network sites to air their views form an amorphous entity of potential detractors, according to Telofski, founder and president of The Kahuna Content Company Inc., a competitive strategy consultancy based in New Jersey.

In his recently released book, Insidious Competition, quick to add that there are multitudes of mommy bloggers, taggers and activists groups who provide truthful and useful information to Internet users. However, there are also many “reality benders” who release “chaotic forces” that could leave brand’s reputation in tatters.

Apart from “harmful but enticing” the dictionary defines insidious as “having a cumulative effect or spreading effect” and this is what makes negative comments on social networks very hard for many businesses to battle, he said.

“For many budget and time constrained SMBs spending resources to master social media to depend or boost their company is just too much,” said Telofski. He says many smaller businesses can learn a lesson from the social networking practices of large corporations such as Nestle.

Telofski cites five factors of insidious corporate competition:

  • Anonymity – social media doesn’t require participants to be correctly identified
  • Power – anonymity can lead to a corruption of ethical behaviour
  • Contagion – power corrupts and can spread like a virus
  • Instinct – powerful individuals perform behaviours they instinctively believe will be supported by the collective interest of social media crowds
  • Disdain – deep rooted dislike of institutions is amplified and perpetuated by the other four factors

Telofski lists these common groups of “reality benders”:

Terrible Tagging – They often employ humour and satire to “snarky tags” that they attach to your businesses’ brand in various social bookmarking sites. Bookmarking sites such a del.icio.us social media spaces where individuals publicly share their lists of favourite sites.

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Sites are tagged with keywords that are factual or based on opinions of the tagger. Terrible taggers out the create havoc on a business’s brand can attach sarcastic or negative comments about the business on bookmarking sites.  

Last year Teleofski did a search on Kentucky Friend Chicken on del.icio.us and found 25 Website links to the brand many of which were “unflattering to the brand”. While he characterized these attacks as “chaotic” and saw no “intentional effort” by a formal group, Telofski said their cumulative effect has a negative impact on KFC.

“It doesn’t matter if the popularity rank of KFC on the site was 100 or 100,000. People who read those posts will have a negative impression of the brand,” he says.

Mommy Bloggers – Mommies are a business threat? You better believe it according to Telofski. The word mommy is often associated with terms like love and caring and of course “mother knows best.” There are countless women now who comment on a wide variety of topics online and not a few have won sizable online audiences.

What happens when your business runs afoul of thousands of angry mothers online?

Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson decided to back down when its 2008 Motrin ad, although based in research, was found to be offensive by many bloggers.

The ad was meant to advocate the use of the analgesic medication Motrin to alleviate back pain suffered by mothers who carry their babies on fabric slings which were referred to as “schwings” on the video. Women bloggers noticed the ad and started discussions about in on the social Web and many bloggers felt the video was insulting to children, said Telofski.

The first blogs appeared on a weekend, by Monday when Motrin marketers reached their desks, the incident was a “raging inferno” as anti-Motrin videos also popped up on YouTube, said Telofski. Within the social networking space, there was a mounting call for Motrin to remove the video.

Spoofed Motrin ad

NGOs and activist – “Much like Mommy Bloggers, NGOs and activists are wrapped within a moral shield,” said Telofski. They present themselves and are perceived to be acting for the public’s interest and are therefore cast as enemies of big business.

These groups, he said, have made very effective use of social media sites to push their agenda

To win the battle against “reality benders” Telofski says businesses should enter the social media arena well prepared. “This is definitely not a job you would want to give an intern just because he or she knows how to use Facebook and Twitter.”

Even before your business is attacked, Telofski advices that you prepare to “immunize” social crowds from negative memes.

Here are some strategies you can adopt:

  • Anticipate negative memes and immunize the social media crowd against them through building body of information and third party data supporting your brand.
  • Create your own social media squad that will craft and disseminate your company’s message in the social media space.
  • Provide social media consumers with accurate and timely information that will nullify claims of attackers. If possible get third party info and sources to back your claims.
  • Attack the attacker. Identify the attacker as mistaken and present counter arguments in social media and link back to your third party sources.
  • Have you company’s social media squad enter into discussions in social media sites about the issue plaguing your company.

“Reality benders are manipulating the meaning of your brand. The key is to enter into meaningful discussions with the social media crowd to correct negative perceptions,” Telofski said.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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