Advocacy – your crisis saviour

Claire Volker Submitted by on the 13th of March 2018

We’ve heard it preached before, “Grow your brand advocacy and reap the rewards of an engaged, and an ultimately positive, community”. Or “online reputation management can be a tricky space to play in, but brand advocacy can be a savior in your time of need.”

While we’ve always known this to be true, it is in recent weeks that brand custodians have seen these theorems being truly put to the test, with brands finding themselves at both ends of the scale.

When a report was published accusing a South African bank of reckless lending and calling it a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, social media conversation volumes skyrocketed – wiping points off the bank’s JSE share price in one fell swoop. It seemed like doom and gloom for the bank – until we saw a plot twist and this started happening:


The brand saw advocacy like no other and users started saying that they will stick with their bank – no matter the circumstances. This is the definition of a true brand advocate. Inadvertently, some competitor banks also saw negativity as a result, with users saying that despite the report, they still trusted their bank more than others.

This speaks to the brand delivering on what they promise for the most part, through unparalleled service delivery and transparent communication with their customer in the times where there are known issues. In turn they saw more positivity than other banks from a service and delivery point of view and as a result, the bank has a dedicated community who won’t even be deterred by a potentially disastrous report.

This brand-advocates-as-a-community phenomenon also saw people drive a stand out opinion on social media that the report was dubious at best – another unexpected trend as it’s the first time we’ve seen a community squash a damaging report of this nature. Plus, they did not only neutralize the conversation about the brand, but drive positivity instead. In a post-mortem of this crisis we saw volumes return to normal within a few days and it seemed that the issue was all-but-forgotten.

Building a community of this nature should be what every brand aspires to. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that even in this case your advocates can turn on you at any given moment.

This is no truer than what we saw happening with Uber. After exploding onto the tech scene and becoming the darlings of innovation a series of crises resulted in digital activism that squashed brand loyalty and resulted in at least 200 000 users deleting the app from their devices.

These issues included:

  • A female employee’s accusations of sexism in the workplace
  • A sexist comment made at a board meeting, resulting in the resignation of the board member in question in the wake of the backlash
  • CEO, Travis Kalanick berating an Uber Black driver over falling fares caught on video
  • When Uber lifted surge pricing during a protest against President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban

These issues snowballed into social media crisis after crisis, and showed how once faithful customers’ opinions could easily be shaped by social media opinions.

It could be you

Negativity lurks around every corner on the internet, and the advocates who hold your brand in high esteem will also hold your brand to a very high expectation. If you fail to deliver on what you promise, beware – the same advocates who give you a glowing online reputation can just as easily drive that reputation into the ground. So, how do you get your brand on the right track and keep it there?

  • Take a good, hard look at your brand

    A thriving brand nurtures a healthy sense of community by aligning with the principles and values inherent in social business in order to position themselves as an ally to their followers. Authenticity and trust are key factors in building long-lasting relationships with your customers and fostering a sense of community. Read more about the Principles of Social Business as we’ve outlined them here.

  • Make sure your team knows their role

    Having an adequately prepared community manager can save you when things start heating up for your brand. These are the people who are on the frontlines of your brand’s reputation and it is imperative that they have bought into the brand and what it stands for.Our free resource, The Community Management Spectrum is a great place to start if your brand is looking to make an intentional move from audience broadcasting to community building. For an in-depth approach, sign up for our upcoming Community Management Masterclass.

  • Be prepared

    Ensure that your communications team has an iron-clad crisis communication strategy in place. This will not only give you a so-called North Star to guide you when the tough times hit, but will ultimately make the process a little less overwhelming. We’ve been helping some of the biggest brands build theirs, read more about how we’ve done that here.

Above all else: listen and pay attention.

Identify your brand advocates so that you can nurture and grow those affiliations into meaningful and long-lasting relationships. These people could be your saviors in a time of need, so pay good mind to them.