The Social Side of Brand Management
The Social Side of Brand Management
The Social Side of Brand Management

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Matt Polsky, the  Social Media Manager as well as the Reputation Manager for Veterans United and VA Mortgage Center

The rise of social media and content creation has brought on new challenges for businesses of all shapes and sizes, especially when it comes to managing one’s reputation. Reputation isn’t a single stationary object, but an equation that includes many pieces, such as being known for quality products or services, being likeable, actively engaging customers, or the ability to offer valuable and relevant content.

Social media gives you the ability to communicate in real-time with your customer base and gives you a chance to build strong interactions. With social media you can provide special incentives, promotional codes, as well as sneak peeks at upcoming products.

Since being a social media manager as well as an avid user of most forms of social media, I have a hard time seeing any reason why a business wouldn’t want to use social media. However, with all the plusses, it still seems like the perfect PR tool is still highly underused. So why would a company not want to use social media?

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

After looking deeper into the issue, I realized some companies just can’t handle social media. Take Netflix for example, the first day they announced they were hiking up prices and splitting the comapny, their Facebook page received 66,000 negative comments, 5000 comments went to their blog, and the #DearNetflix hashtag received a hit almost every five minutes. Netflix had no clue what to do with this flood of comments and it took them a whole three days for a single response. In that three day period there was no “we understand” or “sorry for the inconvenience” or even a single explanation, nothing, which outraged fans even more.

After this fiasco, Netflix has had to do some major reputation repair that could possibly set the company back and give Blockbuster a chance to gain a solid chunk of market share. Still, could this problem have been avoided if they didn’t have their social media channels? In all likelihood, no, and it could have been worse.

Customers still would have sent emails, called customer service lines, and wrote letters expressing their discontent. Of course, these types of communication are all one-on-one, which would eliminate members from feeding off each other’s comments; but even at that, it still wouldn’t stop the millions who subscribe to different social media outlets from blogging and posting on their own platforms. At least with social media outlets, you have the ability to send a mass apology in conjunction with apologizing personally to major influencers.

In a perfect world, I would like to think most companies would take a more proactive approach and have their PR department ready for any negative reaction, especially when any sort of news would outrage the customer base; however, the business world is far from perfect and there are slip-ups similar to Netlix’s occurring all too frequently.

From my experience, even if you produce a great campaign that promotes a positive reaction, complaints will still happen at some point, so it’s best to be prepared in advance. Social media sites allow customers to tell companies exactly how they feel by posting on their wall or by shooting them a tweet, and when businesses run into negative comments, handle them with speed and care. Show the customer you are doing all you can to rectify the situation or at least are acknowledging the discrepancy.

Matt Polsky is the Social Media Manager as well as the Reputation Manager for Veterans United and VA Mortgage Center. Matt keeps a special spot in his heart for military veterans and enjoys working with the nation’s leading provider of VA home loans. Connect with Matt on Twitter @mattpolsky.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
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    The idea
    behind this article is excellent,

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  • I get your point. Social Media is a tool in building a brand and in times of brand crisis just like in the case of Netflix. The totality of a brand is the consumers’ experience  and memory on the product– this is social media can help in brand building. A brand’s damaged reputation will happen if the company fails to recognize and to do something about the problem– this is when social media can aid in mitigating the perils of brand crisis.

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  • Rclark

    Thanks for the good read. You mentioned having a PR department prepared to handle complaints. I agree. Recently, my oldest daughter called me about an idea for a masters class paper. She was taking the postion that PR should be included in marketing plans to advise and possible avoid marketing fall out. I believe more organizations should consider this approach.   

  • henricford

    I think your advice to the Public Relations Department prepared a negative reaction in the case of Netflix is ​​a great piece of advice.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Matt. If there is one thing I could add to your excellent insights, it
    would be the importance of learning from past mistakes.  Social media is unpredictable and that’s a challenge of its own!

    In other words, the chances are high that you might face some unexpected setback every time. So, the least you can do is to NOT repeat past mistakes.  This requires instant evaluation right after each campaign to study what worked, what didn’t and how to prevent it in the future.  What do you think?

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Matt. If there is one thing I could add to your excellent insights, it
    would be the importance of learning from past mistakes.  Social media is unpredictable and that’s a challenge of its own!

    In other words, the chances are high that you might face some unexpected setback every time. So, the least you can do is to NOT repeat past mistakes.  This requires instant evaluation right after each campaign to study what worked, what didn’t and how to prevent it in the future.  What do you think?

  • Thanks for sharing such informative article. And it is true that when one is going to use social media for the business , then has to be prepare for some points from the beginning. Like for negative responses , requirement to be live all time on social media for the instant responding, and many points. But we all say that people use social media for more the business but i have read an article. And the observation said that below 12% of people believe that social media is must for the business. Other 24% people use social media when they have the time to use it. And below 20% of the people even do not know the use of the social media. So still can we say that social media is must for the branding or its usage more for the brand marketing.

  • Kaitlyn

    Great post! I agree with you, I would for a company that specializes in online marketing and social media management; there certaintly are many advantages to using social media such as the ability to use promotional codes, being likable, and engaging customers. I think your advice to have the PR department ready for negative reaction in the case of netflix is a great piece of advice!

    Feel free to check out our website and utilize our free Hilite service (which helps keep all your online sites in a location to easily share with friends)

    You can also check out our facebook or twitter which is ITS_Mrkt

    Thanks again for the post! I look forward to reading more!

  • Alan Stevenson

    BBC TV and University College London conducted some research a while back into how “we” use the web. They also used the Hedgehog and Fox to illustrate types of behaviour although from a more generic user perspective. I have summarised their findings here It appears coincidental that both research studies should use these same web animals. I wondered if there was any connection at all?

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  • @mattpolsky:twitter Could it just be that Netflix, in this example, just doesn’t have the right systems and processes in place? Instead of ‘they just can’t handle social media,’ isn’t more the approach just they didn’t have the right people with the right skills in the right place?

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  • Wonderfully creative approach to helping us better understand.

  • We were just talking about this in class on Monday. Here is a link to the best “apologies” from a struggling CEO and their companies dilemma I tend to laugh when I see major companies struggle with knowing how to reach their audience and telling their audience what they want to hear. Seems like all of these CEO’s are missing one thing, interpersonal communication. 

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  • It is definitely important for businesses to monitor and interact with their social media outlets.  Negative comments should be responded to professionally and quickly and not just swept under the rug.  It is wise to have a plan in place ahead of time for negative comments.  Of course, that being said, because social media is run by humans you have to remember that it’s hard to make everyone happy, there are some people that are just hard to please.

  • This happened with Target at the beginning of the year. (Remembering: They donated to a anti-gay political effort, made Lady Gaga mad and she pulled her song from their stores). How did they react? The swept it under the rug. I did a little homework on it and it appeared to me that they actually when into some of their accounts and deleted a bunch of the negative stuff.

    Brands and companies know when they’re going to make news that riles people. I don’t see Especially with Netflix, I would be stunned if they did not see that coming. I’m guessing that the company put a moratorium on communication for a few days, rather letting people vent than try and address any of it. It was the wrong approach.

    The thing to remember about social media is that it’s “social,” it’s human, and when people say things, they expect a response, especially from the places they send their money.

  • So true, Matt!  I was doing research for a customer and they had a great Facebook page that had lots of people interacting, but no one was answering their questions.  These were customers willing to drive long distances to purchase, if their questions were answered.  That small change would probably double my client’s business.  Social media used well is such an asset.  Used badly or ignored, it can cause some serious trouble.

  • Amy Fowler

    Interesting real life examples, thanks!

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  • Interesting perspective on brand management! Businesses definitely need to be ready for any and all negative reactions when the consumer population is so plugged in.

  • Thanks for this sharing. Brand Management requires rational approach to be effective in Social Media. I liked your views. Keep It Up !!

  • Never though of brand management in this way. These are the great working steps for Brand Management when it comes to Social Media. Thanks for sharing.

  • No longer does someone have to be just a ‘call rep’ for some major corporation without a face. As long as that brand manager actually takes the time to talk to someone who has an issue with a company or product, you can win a life long customer. Instead of saying “you’re just screwed…see ya…” why not see what you can actually do for them. 

    If you’re company is so tied down by it’s ‘policies and procedures’ isn’t maybe time to evalute them? What worked in 1954 doesn’t work in 2011. 

  • Netflix definitely would curbed some of the problems caused by their price increase if the had used a social media strategy before this happened. Yet we know it to be true that most companies aren’t prepared for the backlash caused over social media outlets.  They simply build their brand online and forget about it or only monitor it for negative comments.  Netflix is one of those companies.  Companies need to plan and prepare for this type of negative publicity and stop being scared of what social media plans and strategies are for.  Thanks for the great article!

  • Hello Matt (and Jason),

    Thanks for your comments. As most of us, I obviously agree with the fact that having a social media strategy in place would have helped Netflix’s case. Among other advantages, having a social media plan conveys a sense of transparency and an effort to approach the client they he/she needs it.

    My world must be perfect because the companies I work for, those that have an active and successful social media strategy in place, actually DO have a holistic approach in this field; we work with their PA departments AND we have a strategy in place when we need to approach negative comments and other types of comments that could be controversial (such as political comments). I strongly believe that, at this point in the social media evolution, those companies that are taking this mean of communications seriously, DO HAVE a well-rounded plan that allows them to make use of this tool as efficiently as possible.


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    thanks for sharing

  • Anonymous

    It seems like another downside to hedgehog thinking is that your campaigns will always be copies of other people’s campaigns. There is something to be said for creativity as well.

  • Nice effort, very informative, this will help me to complete my task. Thanks for share it keep it up.


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