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Getting to know the internet hater culture

You may have heard of a particular group of people who take to the now 280-word format to berate a brand, person or event. Interestingly, they are called trolls which is ironic as trolls were cave-dwelling creatures who were very happy minding their own business. But, these internet trolls are a small fragment of the larger issue of dealing with people who, for a lack of better term, are called haters. Negative advocacy is not a foreign concept to the PR industry, but these surgical attacks by people whose negative claims may or may not be true, are a fairly recent phenomenon. Usually humorous and sometimes harmful, this is a growing community of tech-savvy millennials who can hamper your brand image considerably. With people tagging CEOs and founders, the barriers that once kept the general public away from the top management are slowly crumbling. Take, for instance, the discussion on social media on the various emojis used by Google and Apple. Such was the magnitude of the debate among users that Google’s CEO had to issue a tatement on the matter.

We all are aware of the adage that bad news travels faster and in light of the recent surge in social media, it travels at the rate of light. Most brands use social media platforms to enhance their interactions with their intended customer base and are quite active on various platforms. Not only does it enable to humanize the brand but also give it a cost-effective way to cultivate its audiences. Some of the banter between brands and the audience is harmless and humorous and actually aids in the process of creating and maintaining the brand’s identity. However, when there are directed campaigns against the brand, it is then that a response mechanism must be structured. If the comments are too few and far between, it is best to not feed into it but if the numbers rise, the brands must respond. Humour can be a great way to handle the negativity as evidenced by the food chain Wendy when it responded to allegations of using frozen meat in its menu. It used wit to handle the situation and has, in fact, become one of the few brands that use negative comments to their advantage. Their twitter account is famous for its comebacks with most haters deactivating their accounts to save themselves from further embarrassment. While risky, the move has paid off as is evidenced by the traction their content gets from its user base.

While the exchange itself may not be a cause for concern, online magazines and blogs are starting to use such interactions as fodder for news stories further compounding the damage. There is a fine line between negative advocacy and negative publicity. When reputed platforms cover stories about social media haters, it gives such communities more legitimacy thus provoking more to create problems. The firm’s policy to either delete or ignore such comments may not come in handy in such a case. While most professionals take a passive route to dealing with trolls, there are some

who use the chance to explore the funnier side of the brand. For instance, Tesco mobile, a UK based telecommunication firm has gained quite the repute for “roasting” its users and continues to amass followers for its wit and humor. The back and forth between the brand and its 83,100 followers has become a subject of much anticipation and has greatly increased brand engagement. It has gained respect from these elements of negativity by showing guile in their interactions with them. Their witty comebacks are also a way to defend the brand against stray allegations and help in dispelling any miscommunication with its audience.

Not all negative engagement is futile though, there might be instances of genuine feedbacks from people. The days of people patiently waiting for the customer care representative to help them seem to be fading away as more and more people are taking to social media platforms for redressals. Ignoring constructive feedback can be a cardinal mistake for the brand and lead to a negative image. There is an increased tendency among people to use social media platforms to express both positive and negative feedback. They are no longer the forte of the customer care department and are using online channels to call out brands. Not only do the brands have to ensure a proper response, they also have to do the same in an extremely limited period of time. The consideration shown by the brand goes a long way in establishing the credibility of the brand and its dedication towards quality.

Often, it is not only people but other brands that are a part of the exchange. While they cannot be classified as haters, these competing brands do use the forums to engage in a direct confrontation, usually clothed in sarcasm and wit. The battle of 140 words between arch rivals Flipkart and Amazon where each is trying to establish its supremacy in the Indian market has given its followers much to talk about. Using such a mechanism also ensures that you stay in the news even in the absence of a product launch, announcement and continue to mark your territory in the spotlight. A battle of brands is also a great way for the brand to exhibit its traits that makes marks its distinction from the other brands.

Haters, trolls, users, consumers, the lines between the categories have become blurry with technological disruption leveling the field. An unsatisfied user can call out the CEO if he is unhappy with the service and expect redressal on the matter. The brand is no longer a faceless identity, too far from the reach of its consumers but has no become an extremely accessible entity with the top management being present on the internet. The community of people, thus, looking to take shots at the brand has more than one way to do it and are not shy about it. He brands must keep in mind that not only can this be used to refine the brand engagement process but it can generate constructive criticism for the firm.


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