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Disagreeing with the Online Masses: A Branding Issue?
By: Cameron Kirkwood
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Are you a frequent commenter on social media? Have you voiced your opinion and received insane backlash?

It’s come to a point where I myself refrain from posting anything online — an exception being between close friends or inner circles where I have full comfort. I know I’m not the only one out there.
 
Take the viral sensation Caitlyn Jenner, for example. Where I myself am devoted to the cause (note how I feel obligated to state that), if any one person voiced their opinion against it, they would be digitally crucified to the point where it could affect not only their online life but their personal life, too.

Disclaimer: Beware of un-friending, indirect tweeting, and dirty stares at the mall ahead.

What one must remember is that with the bustling advances of a completely connected world, the act of having an opinion has dwindled to either being for or against the opinion.

So how does this relate to the industry? We’ve all heard tales of employees losing their jobs to something said online or socially caused cat fights in the parking lot, but in retrospect, all this is miniscule compared to the impact social media can bring to your brand. Good or very, very bad.
 
Brands must be ninjas in the grass when it comes to their opinions. One slip-up could mean complete dismay about their service — especially, but not limited to, if their brand advocates a certain way. 
 
Take Chick-fil-A, for example. The openly Christian, anti-LGBT, southern-rooted food chain often speaks out against popular controversial topics such as same-sex marriage. If they were to make a negative comment via social media — well, there wouldn’t be too much of a rustle amongst their already-very-niche fan base; however, if their main competition, KFC, were to say the same thing, there would be a digital uproar. The family-branded, equal-rights supportive chicken food chain would be trending within the hour, and would lose half their business in the next.

So when is it okay to voice your opinion online? Nowadays, unfortunately, I would say never. “But we live in North America, Freedom of Speech, I say!” This is very true. You have every right to say what you wish, but for the sake of your online persona, and more importantly your company’s brand, it’s probably best to keep it for the water cooler.


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About the Author
Cameron Kirkwood is a recent graduate, but a forever student of advertising. An aspiring brand strategist and digital aficionado, Cameron seeks to change the game through new and different channels of advertising in an ever extensively growing industry.
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