Marketing, Strategy

Why You Want at Least Some Negative Comments on Social Media

Getting a bad rep with some can help make your good rep even better

We’ve done the necessary analysis and know that social media should be part of our marketing plans. We’ve put in place a sustainable social media strategy. We have implemented social listening, so we know what is said about us and we can respond accordingly. The entire social media machine is humming, and BAM!

We found a negative mention.

In an instance, we enter into crisis mode.

What is a social media crisis? Often, when we encounter a negative mention or comment, we instinctively view it as a crisis. However, not all negative mentions are created equal. In fact, having negative mentions on a social media post may not be a bad thing. In some cases, we would want to welcome negative mentions.

Negative Reactions Are Necessary Evils

I think negative reactions, mentions, comments, etc. are necessary evils because I don’t believe a brand can be all things to all people.

A brand stands above a commodity because it stands for something. A Victoria’s Secret bra is not your Walmart bra because it’s specifically designed and made to make you feel sexy. However, there is a downside to this. To stand for something automatically means you are not going to stand for something else. A Victoria’s Secret bra is not cheap. A real brand cannot be everything to everyone. This is not a new concept in marketing, but it’s not a concept that’s always practiced.

Therefore, a clearly positioned brand is always going to have their core targets: people who believe in the brand. Naturally, that means there would be people who do not believe: the nonbelievers.

Depending on what we are selling and how emotional that category is, our nonbelievers can be very loud in the social space. So, as a matter of facts, the fact we have nonbelievers tells us we have done something right. We have taken a stand and clearly defined space in the market for our brand.

The trick is to take those negative reactions from these nonbelievers, and address it in a way that talks to our core believers!

Use the bad to make the good even better

Any publicity is going to bring awareness to an unknown brand — even if the publicity is built upon a controversial subject. At least now people know you exist. Who knows — people may even take your side.

Sometimes, such controversies can even give start to a brand. Think about pop stars and rappers. Our first memory of a nowadays famous pop icon could very well be a controversial, or negative, one. Nevertheless, we would Google them and eventually get to know them, which would have been the first step toward buying from them.

Being controversial can be a great thing. Any new idea, a truly new idea, is bound to contradict the existing doctrines and create controversies.

But, what if we’re not talking about the new, small, and unknown brands? What if we’re talking about the established, big, and well-known brands? Should these established brands be scared?

I would similarly argue no.

  • In the famous classic marketing book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout highlighted the concept of “cherchez le creneau”. It’s French for “Look for the hole.” Find the niche and fill that demand.
  • Patrick Hanlon discussed the need for defining a brand’s pagans in his book Primal Branding.
  • Sally Hogshead challenged us to provoke a reaction in her book Fascinate:
    The unfortunate reality is that most marketers set out to create messages that offend the fewest people. They’re playing not to lose… If you’re not generating a negative reaction from someone, you’re probably not fascinating anyone.

Nevertheless, it’s not a concept that’s always practiced. Too often, we fall for the trap of trying to please everyone. After all, we were taught since childhood to play nice. But in fact, in the world of business and marketing, trying to please everyone is a recipe for failure.

Having negative mentions on our social media means we’re doing something right!

Our brand stands for something, and our nonbelievers wouldn’t like us because of it. They would say…

You’re too cheap. You’re too expensive.

You’re too liberal. You’re too conservative.

You’re for the old. You’re for the young.

You’re for the masses. You’re for the elites.

Your offering is too long. Your offering is too short.

Your offering is too easy. Your offering is too difficult.

Your brand is too …

We would proudly say: Yes, I am.

Yes, I am expensive. That’s because we spend millions in research to bring you the best quality product your money can buy. We will not sacrifice quality, ever.

In fact, if we had done what we needed to build a good product, we may even have fans who would come to our defense should one of these nasty mentions surface. The brand doesn’t even need to react.

Case Study: Peloton

I have written about my passion for my Peloton. I am a happy customer, but that isn’t the point. The point is that Peloton has many happy, loyal customers. With a loyal customer base, Peloton has a strong brand.

However, Peloton has its detractors and its nonbelievers. Negative mentions about the brand are not hard to find. In fact, some are so creative and gain such a following that they eventually got picked up by other websites. The best ones were by Clue Heywood making fun of Peloton’s advertising creative, roasting Peloton owners, making some call Peloton the “millionaire’s bike”. (Side note: I am not a millionaire. I would like to be one. So, if you have a million to spare, Venmo me.)

At this time, Peloton could enter into crisis mode. Defend against this? Change the ad campaign? Fear this type of press?

No! No! No!

Because Peloton as a brand stands for something, they have fans!

Here are what the fans say on the Peloton Facebook group:

The fans didn’t care!

The fans didn’t mind being roasted. The fans didn’t mind being made fun of. They had a sense of humor and let it go.

They still loved their Pelotons!

Peloton created a space for their brand. They are different. Because they are different, they would have fans and distractors.

Peloton promotes itself to be compact, quiet, connected, immersive…

It isn’t just a bike. It is an experience.

Now, before this turns into a Peloton commercial — it is expensive! It is one of the most expensive stationary bikes on the market. The basic bike costs over $2000, and the classes (an integral part of that immersive experience) require an on-going monthly subscription.

That’s why Pelotons were being called “millionaires’ bikes”. But that’s okay. Negative mentions like this actually reinforce the brand. It isn’t cheap — but it is built to be the best.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don’t about every single negative mention on social media.

Worry every other aspect of building the brand and creating a fan base. Worry about building a solid product. Worry about knowing who your target is and what they really want. That’s what’s important!

First published on Better Marketing.

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About Jeannie Chan

Jeannie Chan founded Curious. She is a brand strategist who takes on business problems big or small. She inspires organizations to raise the questions no one dared to ask or thought to ask. She has ignited new thinking and delivered growth to Fortune 500 companies, startups, and nonprofits. Jeannie loves espressos, and lives in New York City with her two cats and her beloved. Learn more about Jeannie at
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