The Economist this week carries a look at corporate reputations and blogs – you can view the article without subscription (wise move) here.
I was particularly pleased that the focus of the piece was not just about the power of communities that can coalesce quickly around issues online, but about getting perspective and looking closely at who is saying what. A great case study in "don’t panic" analysis cited is this:
After the invasion of Iraq, when American consumers turned against all
things French, a big French drinks company noticed that its brand names
were popping up on boycott lists. But an analysis by BuzzMetrics, which
specialises in scrutinising blogs and other online forums for corporate
marketers, revealed that those who were pushing hard for a boycott
tended to be “Budweiser drinkers”, who would not have been natural
customers for the firm’s wines and spirits anyway.
Intelligent analysis and mapping of stakeholder groups online is obviously crucial in planning an online communications strategy.
It’s useful to use headline stats to grab people’s attention when talking about social media (26 million blogs, one created every second, etc, etc), but you need deeper knowledge and data to hand to explain what is being said about a brand, who is saying it, how and why and all that jazz.
That’s the bit you have to get from professional communications consultants who understand social media and brand communications – no matter how brilliant your search engine or analytics tool is, you need someone who can read the new landscape and make sense of it.
NB: I was also fascinated by a concept, put forward by uber-blogger Steve Rubel in the article, of a "lock-box blog" that can be revealed from behind a corporate firewall during a communications crisis to engage with bloggers direct with pre-prepared content ready for them to access. We’ve yet to see a case study of something like this in action, but it seems a sensible approach.