There has been a lot of focus of course in the area of social media influencers for many years both in research and in the profession. Features with rising social media professionals, interviews with top influencers in the industry, and even studies like the one I did with a few of my colleagues a couple of years ago.

Social media influence can be both an opportunity,and a challenge, for companies and brands. Why do I say this? Well, what happens if the relationship and communication between the influencer (or sometimes referred to as an advocate or ambassador) goes sour? In fact,what happens when it gets to be the point where the advocate turns into a “brand villain” for a company? The question is – can a brand ambassador be good, bad, or both?

I raise this question not only after reading this post in Digiday, but also seeing the movie Maleficent with Angelia Jolie. Not to have any spoilers in the movie, but both share a similar message here. When relationships turn in an opposite direction or if there is a rising gap in expected and actual behavior within a relationship, this of course sparks a lot of reaction.

So, how do we go about in making sure we sustain our brand ambassadors and not make them into brand villains? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Consistent engagement: If you establish a relationship, you want to make sure to sustain it for the long term. Ignoring people who are invested in what you do for a moment after they have been there since the very beginning – well, that is not good practice. Everyone you have engaged in your community is important to recognize and interact with.
  • Surprises and gap of expectations are not good: When your actual behavior violates the perception or expectation people have of you as a brand or organization, this could cause a lot of trouble. This is called reputation dissonance, a topic I am going to be covering with colleagues on a paper at this year’s Reputation Institute Conference. If there is a misunderstanding – address it immediately. Don’t let it linger and continue to grow.
  • Communication is key: I always said if the characters in Jane Austen’s books actually communicated with each other, things would have worked out a lot quicker for them instead of waiting to the end of the book to do it. This is the same with brands. Communication is essential to understand each other’s side to formulate a decision on the relationship between the brand and the influencer/advocate/ambassador.
  • Treat others like you would be treated: Of course, this is a classic rule to follow, but it is key to make sure, especially when you are communicating online, how people may interpret items that may come across the way you didn’t expect.

Overall, there are some cases where relationships may end or change, but it is important not to initiate with those who are your biggest supporters and who believe in what you do as an organization. Our role in public relations is to not only monitor these on an ongoing basis, but also brainstorm strategies and ideas to make sure we do not let our best turn to the dark side of social media.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,
Karen