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Credit crunch forces brands to boost online interactivity

Credit crunch forces brands to boost online interactivity

Economic downturn stimulates brands to interact more online as Virgin Atlantic remains tops of latest Kaizo Advocacy Index highlighting online reputation.

With more news of doom and gloom appearing online every day, brands are having to become ever more involved in conversations online according to a new study of online reputation and recommendations, published today (20 February 2009).

The Winter Kaizo Advocacy Index demonstrates that the amount of negative online brand chatter is increasing due to news relating to business performance in the recession. However, it also identifies how some brands are taking advantage of the opportunities online to boost reputation.

The Kaizo Advocacy Index measures online reputation of 20 major brands across four sectors (Airlines, Mobile, Software and Food). The bi-annual Index examines independent links on four Google search engine tools – Web, News, Groups and Blog, and for the first time in this study, postings on Twitter and Facebook Groups. Content is assigned a positive (Promoter), neutral (Passive) or negative (Detractor) score and an index is created by subtracting the percentage of Promoters from the percentage of Detractors.

Virgin Atlantic, as it has been for the last three studies, remains number one, but there are big changes elsewhere with Kelloggs and Heinz rising dramatically as a result of increased focus, frequency and involvement online.

Losers include; BMI, Microsoft, Symantec, Ryanair, and Orange, the biggest faller since the last study. Common themes for these brands relate to the economy and poor customer service.

Rhodri Harries, Managing Director of Kaizo, said: “The study is unique as it recreates a customer’s own online experience, as opposed to researching perceptions of a small group of stakeholders. When customers search online for a brand they typically look for external perspectives from a number of sources. Those brands that are actively communicating online with groups, posting online content, and interacting directly with customers, are ultimately the ones that shine.

“As the economy continues to tighten, brands will need to increase their online involvement to ensure that both their reputation remains intact and that online chat results in recommendations and, perhaps most importantly, sales.”

Interestingly Virgin Atlantic has the highest score despite the brand receiving some criticism for firing 13 employees who set up a Facebook group. The reason for this is that this was addressed and balanced out by the weight of positive posts relating to the brand, its campaigns and service.

The study also highlights that social media is not exclusively a platform for consumer brands looking to reach younger audiences. All ages are now active users of social media and smart businesses are recognising this as part of their own activity.

For instance, the study highlights Symbian’s presence on social networks such as Facebook as a prime example of how business brands can use social media to interact with customers. The variety of web 2.0 tools, and broad spectrum of ages, means that every brand can find platforms that reach their customers.

The introduction in this year’s study of searches of Facebook groups and Twitter recognises the growing importance of social networks and micro blogs. Some brands such as T-Mobile, Orange and SAP are improving their image online with consistent strategic interactions in these channels.

Harries continued: “As a simple first step brands need to identify who is saying what about them and where and then take steps to engage in conversations. This isn’t a replacement to traditional PR, but an obvious extension to the way brands should communicate. What is key, though, is that success requires brands to engage in conversations and not simply broadcast news.

“Those brands that ignore this, or simply see it as an online version of what they do offline, do so at their long term peril.”


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