In a social media firestorm, do only the fans matter? - SmartBrief

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In a social media firestorm, do only the fans matter?

3 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: Do you agree with Chris Rock that social media controversies matter only when “fans” get involved? The results:

  • Yes: 56.25%
  • No: 43.75%

More than half of SmartBrief on Social Media readers agreed with Rock’s position that social media is really all about your most loyal fans — and his insistence that a social media uproar isn’t a cause for concern unless it’s coming from one’s fan base.

I think Rock’s strategy is technically correct in the short term. But he takes a narrow view that’s not going to work for everyone. There are three ways in which the only-the-true-fans-matter approach falls short over time.

  1. You have more than one kind of fan. The more a person loves something, the more the person is willing to overlook. Your most loyal fans might loudly defend you if you do something stupid. That’s great. But what about all of the fans who say nothing? These are people who maybe bought from you twice and would have bought from you a third time, but now, maybe for reasons they can’t quite articulate, your brand leaves a bad taste in their mouth. These people won’t roundly condemn you — after all, they’ve been a fan in the past — but they might well slink away. You need casual fans, as well as hardcore fans, to survive.
  2. You have to look out for the future. Even if every, single fan you have is willing to defend you with nigh-religious fervor, you still have to bring in fans if you’re going to endure. Think about the people who have never encountered your brand before. If their first exposure to you is a bunch of angry tweets about what an insensitive jerk you are, how many of those people will become fans? How many will never get past that first impression? Is that a risk you’re willing to run?
  3. Your brand faces different expectations. People expect comedians to be edgy and dangerous. Comedy is a blunt form of art, where fans look for candor and even controversy. Even people who aren’t really fans of Rock’s work are more likely to give him a pass for controversial comments simply because of what he does. Do you think they have the same kinds of expectations for their favorite brand of soda or a local clothing store? Rock’s brand has built-in shock absorbers that most brands can only dream of. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that what works for him will work for you.

How are you dealing with negative reactions via social media channels?