Spotting “Badvocates”

“Brands try to inspire excitement among their communities so that their fans and supporters will do the selling for them. That’s called advocacy, and it’s much more powerful than self-promotion. On the flip side, however, are ‘badvocates.'” – Maria Ogneva, head of community at Yammer.com.

Ogneva, like many others, understands and appreciates the role that advocates (current customers, fans and/or supporters) play in developing business strategies, efforts toward increasing revenue and the overall success of a company. In the past, companies have not had to consider input from advocates as  much because there was not a medium that enabled free collaboration and discussion among customers. Today, however, social networking platforms (social media) not only enable but encourage such communication among both advocates and “badvocates.”

According to Ogneva, in a post at Mashable, “badvocates” are customers who spread negative comments about a company through various networks, in this case social networks. Therefore, it is important to understand how to spot badvocates to prevent causes of future “badvocacy.”

First, it is important to note that a company does not have to be involved with social media to invite badvocates into discourse surrounding the organization. Negative and/or positive conversations  about a company will occur regardless of whether or not the company is online to participate in the conversations. We suggest assigning someone in your company to monitor dialogue on social media sites – this way, any and all conversation about the company can be caught and responded to in a timely manner. Google Alerts are one good way to monitor online conversations about your company. This tool tracks the occurrence of designated keywords – like your company name – on various Internet sites, including public Twitter accounts, blogs and forums.

Second, in order to locate badvocates, you need to think like a badvocate.

Think like a badvocate: Think about a time when you have been disappointed with a product/service or caught wind of negative press surrounding a company. The first thing you might try to do is contact the company.

Company solution: Review recent complaints received via your website or e-mail to determine if an unhappy customer has already tried to voice his complaint.

Think like a badvocate: If you contact the company and do not receive feedback in a timely manner, you will probably turn to friends and social networks to voice your complaint. The medium of choice for most badvocates is a personal Twitter and/or Facebook account. While there is no way to find or track a badvocate via his/her social networking account, you can rely on the “badvocate network” to publicly spread the negative comment through  sites that can be filtered and tracked.

Company solution: Set up a monitoring account like monitter or WhatTheHashtag to search Twitter accounts, and other similar social networking monitoring tools to quickly and easily keep an eye on what is being said about your company.

Finally, be sure to have a plan in place for addressing badvocates. This will include identifying the problem or source, accounting for – how many people were affected by the negative message, developing and offering a tailored solution to the audiences affected by the negative message, and finally, setting things right with the badvocate and badvocate network. Remember, in cases like this, reaction time is key! The faster the response time, the  more likely a badvocate will be to retract his or her negative comments.

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