Social Scanner: Is it marketing or masochism

Some brands do nothing but take abuse on social media. But they can't leave

Some brands shoot rainbows out of their social media accounts.

Taco Bell, for example, has more fun than almost any other brand online, thanks to its fast food license, to make jokes about marijuana or send Snapchats of burritos to its customers like they are close personal friends.

Oreo is another that seems to do no wrong. Even on a day when it is not sending one of the most retweeted tweets of all time or posting pictures of popular “cookie hacks” like Oreo ice cubes, you would be hard pressed to find a social post complaining about a cookie-related customer service problem. And the quirkiness of the Skittles “Taste the Rainbow” platform makes it perfect for social sharing. Other brands aren’t so lucky.

In contrast to the easy fun for junk food brands, others seem to exist on social just to endure the abuse of angry consumers. The problem is almost endemic in some industries.

Airlines, for one, generate plenty of rage for long lines and delays—even the weather. Telcos, too, take their share of heat for service outages, busted hardware and unexpected charges.

The battering some brands take online is enough to make you wonder why they are on social media at all. I posed that question to Dan Sorotschynski, director of social at Telus. His take: any service-driven brand is bound to face criticism, and that criticism is better served with a response than silent indifference.

“Ignoring what consumers have to say, good or bad, is irresponsible. We’d much prefer to hear from them, so we can address it versus turning a blind eye,” he says.

Don Power, a Vancouver-based social media speaker and consultant, has a similar philosophy. No matter how bad it gets—even if it gets to oops-we-tweeted-porn levels of bad—brands cannot afford to bury their head in the sand, Power says.

“No action reinforces ignorance, indifference or guilt,” Power says. “Action implies leadership, competence and integrity—even if the brand has legitimately screwed up.”

With the help of Jen McDonnell, vice-president of social media at Reshift Media, I brainstormed industries that are tough for social, and ones that should steer away. Funeral Home? Please, no #funeralselfies. High-end matchmaker? Not enough discretion on social. Pharmaceutical company? Too regulated to talk freely.

For mainstream brands, though, not being on social is a tough sell. If you are not there to respond and protect your brand, any battering is likely to get even worse.

“If people are complaining about your brand on social media, they’re probably doing it whether you have an official channel or not,” McDonnell says. “Being on social media allows you to steer that conversation and take some ownership of it.”

Social Status

This winter J.D. Power crunched the number for its annual Social Media Benchmark Study, quizzing almost 10,000consumer about their social interaction with auto brands and givin each brand a score out of 1,000. Here’s how the top auto brands fared (the average score was 824):

• Toyota – 845
• Ford –842
• Chevrolet – 838
• Lincoln – 836
• BMW – 831

• Land Rover – 780
• Scion – 777
• Chrysler – 772
• Mini – 763
• Fiat – 743

The survey also showed consumer who reported positive social experiences were more likely to return to the ir brand dealer for service and 20% of consumer use social media as their primary source for information about auto brands.

Follow Their Lead

Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevingne may be the most social model ever, and her social accounts provide a peek into the future of fashion marketing.

From broadcast quality Instagram mini-cuts of her Yves Saint Laurent ad to Facebook pics of Delevingne kicking back on a private jet, feet up to show the Chanel logo (another of her brands) on the bottom of her shoe, Brand Cara is a one-woman September issue for the digital age.

By The Numbers

Consumers believe privacy is almost impossible in the digital age, according to a new study of the U.K. and U.S. markets by Accenture. Here’s a by the numbers look at the report:


Adults aged 20-40 who say privacy is “basically impossible”


Respondents who said they don’t believe the proper safeguards have been taken to protect their information online


Consumers who don’t mind being tracked if they get more relevant ads and offers


Percentage of respondents who say they prefer to receive communications from brands via social media


Percentage, by comparison, of respondents who say they prefer to receive communications from brands via email

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