Can a Twitter War Help Build a Brand? Lessons From Piers Morgan and Charlie Daniels

Last week, amid the controversy caused by Phil Robertson’s comments during a GQ interview, Piers Morgan took to Twitter to condemn the Duck Dynasty patriarch. Morgan, a known advocate for gay rights, called Phil a racist homophobe, and then reveled in the backlash his views caused. Some praised him, some insulted him, but he garnered attention either way.

Then Charlie Daniels spoke out directly against Piers Morgan in a number of tweets.

Charlie Daniels' Tweets

Morgan countered, replying in kind.

Piers Morgan's reply

This brief Twitter war certainly provided entertainment for the masses, but it also importantly served to more fully endear each celebrity to his fan base.

As brands, the war was a good idea for them both.

Who Are They Talking To?

Think about it. Piers Morgan’s fans and followers are probably more typically left-leaning folks with similar views as Morgan’s. They too probably found Robertson’s comments offensive and cheered Morgan’s outrage.

Further, consider this: Morgan’s first tweet about the subject was retweeted over 1800 times and favorited by over 1400 followers. It was really only after his tweets were picked up and subsequently broadcast on Twitchy and elsewhere that the negative reactions really started (which he seemed to enjoy anyway).

Prior to the greater broadcast of his tweets his audience was limited to mostly his followers and fans: people who agree with him.

Likewise it is safe to assume that the followers of Charlie Daniels are his fans: people who buy his albums and enjoy his music. They also probably have the same ideals and values. We could further assume they are more right of center in their politics.

So in other words we have two fan bases. On one side are those sympathetic with the plight of gay people as they struggle for acceptance and rights. On the other side are gun-toting conservatives who most likely agree with Phil Robertson’s original statements and respect his right to say them.

What better way to make these groups more loyal than to pick a fight with the figurehead for the opposite group.

And that’s exactly what Daniels did.

The war was brief, but it was all that was needed. Daniels quickly became the champion of the right and Morgan solidified his position as leader of the outraged left.

In this example, this brief Twitter war was good for the respective brands involved, but this isn't always the case.

Not For Every Type of Brand

Twitter wars are dangerous. Recently Walmart found out the hard way not engage in a fight with a celebrity when Ashton Kutcher nailed them about their low wages. Likewise, it would make no sense for retails brands to get in fights with each other.

But in some contexts, Twitter wars make sense. In the weird world of "celelbritydom" it can work—as I think it did in this case.

Likewise in politics, these types of brief interactions can serve to strengthen a leader’s position among his or her followers.

While I doubt that Charlie Daniels sat down and thought about getting into a Twitter war as a means to create more loyalty or attention from followers, that is what happened anyway. In Morgan’s case, howerver, I think he’s a savvy enough self-promoter to see the great opportunity it gave him.

The lesson for brands and marketers is to first consider who your followers and fans are and what their values are. If there’s room for controversy then look for opportunities to create it. However, consider the dangers of getting into a war and looking like Walmart did—clumsy and arrogant.

About the Author

Dr. Clinton R. LanierDr. Clinton R. Lanier is a researcher, author and digital media theorist and consultant. He is the owner of Word One Consulting, a small digital marketing firm in Las Cruces, NM.

Contact him at clint@wordoneconsulting, follow on twitter @ClintonRLanier or connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/clintlanier.

Letting your customers talk: integrate comments into your website

People are nervous about what they say in online spaces, and rightly so. Our internet-record is likely to follow us for years and years, so what we put out there today could come back to haunt us in the future.

Businesses and organizations have another worry—they worry about what others say about them. With the potential for spreading bad or false information, the internet (and more specifically social media) can certainly create problems for businesses unfairly tarnished by unhappy or unsatisfied customers.

This could be the primary reason why many small business owners I know are hesitant to include some type of commenting system on their websites. After all, if they allow customers to provide feedback—either in the form of ratings or comments—those customers might provide negative feedback. That negative feedback could, therefore, affect the decision-making of future customers.

The safe choice for many who feel this way is to simply avoid it: provide no public mechanism for criticizing or complaining.

To be fair these concerns are legitimate. Nobody like criticism; and it is especially disconcerting when it could interfere with one’s livelihood.

But the unfortunate part is these commenting and rating systems also provide public mechanisms for celebrating the business, product or service, and without them small businesses are missing the opportunity to let others advocate their brand for them.

Recent studies by the Nielsen Company and others have shown that over 70% of online customers trust the advice from others when making a purchasing decision. They trust the opinion of others more than they do the business, the business’ advertising or any type of marketing the business does.

The upshot is that comments and ratings on your site—whether they be about news, events and articles, or about your products and services—could be the easiest method of compelling others to purchase from you or use your services. Though there is a risk of negative feedback the risk is worth it to gain the advocacy of customers—to get them to sell for you.

And in all honesty, if reviews are consistently terrible, then you may want to listen to them and change the way you are doing business.

The easiest methods to integrate these tools are to use mechanisms that are free to use, and which integrate into existing social media platforms.

One commenting system is Facebook-based, and Facebook makes the code easy to place on your website, easy to understand and then use. The nice part about using a Facebook commenting system is that when a comment is made, the commenter’s Facebook friends are notified about the comment, thereby spreading your message.

Another mechanism is called Disqus (disqus.com). Like Facebook it is easy to add to a site, and users can sign in through a number of platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Facebook, Disques lets you moderate the comments and it will also notify people on the different social media platforms when a comment is made.

There are a number more that you can investigate, but if you spend even a small amount of time looking you are sure to find a system that works well for you.

The point is that you should provide a feedback mechanism, a way for customers and clients to interact with you. Don’t be afraid of putting your brand out there for criticism. It may be scary at first, but the outcome is worth overcoming that fear.

Market your Business with Social Media

The selling point for social media over the past few years has been its focus on virtual “word of mouth.” In other words friends talk to friends about what they like or don’t like, and that influences the decisions they make about what to buy and where to buy it.

This is not at all a new concept. After all, most business was conducted through word of mouth a century ago. True, we were much less connected on a national or global level, but we were much more connected on a local and personal level.

So when Butcher Bob started selling rank meat, the whole town knew about it, talked about it, and punished Butcher Bob by shopping at his competitor.

Times changed, of course, and word of mouth promotion was eclipsed by the golden age of advertising, with celebrities hawking products, and claims that 4 out of 5 dentists prefer one product over another.

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Use Images in your Online Marketing

The web is a visual medium. Study after study has found that people do not really “read” online, not in the way we read print anyway. They skip around pages, hunting and gathering information, picking up on keywords and visual information as they go.

What they focus on, however, are images.

Earlier this year, Facebook caused a lot of controversy by forcing everyone who had an account to begin using their “Timeline” feature. Instead of the old horizontal format, where posts and pictures were seen left to right, the new look created more a vertically-formatted page.

This created much consternation on the part of many users, however those businesses that understood this move were quick to take advantage of the benefits, namely the more visual aspect of the new Facebook look.

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How to Market With Twitter

Of all of the social media networks popularized over the past few years, I think the one that causes the most confusion or speculation is Twitter (http://www.twitter.com).

Many people in the area I speak to have heard of it yet don’t understand how to use it for socializing, let alone for business.

But, Twitter is a network that really should be looked at closely, especially for certain types of businesses, products and services. As of its most recent statistics released (March, 2012) Twitter had almost 200 million users worldwide. This alone should make business-owners sit up a bit and consider the potential customer-base it could provide.

What’s more, Twitter users fall into some very nice demographics. For example, contrary to popular belief there really isn’t that much of an age gap between users, and the most influential consumers make up the bulk of its user-base. Thirty-three percent of users are above the age of 45, the second highest set of users (29%) are 35-45, the third (26%) is 25-35 and the lowest at 10% is below 24 years old.

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