Your Brand under Attack: Negative electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM) and online Firestorms in Social Media Part 2

Although the importance of this topic seems to be extremely high, research is still in its infancy. There is a wide variety of academic articles available that describe the changing paradigm of word-of-mouth, yet there is only limited literature available that examines how brands can deal with negative electronic word-of-mouth and online firestorms within the social media context. This may be connected to the fact that its emergence, its development and its consequences happened in a rather short period of time. However, from popular press articles, Thomas et al. (2012) gathered and analyzed a variety of company examples. Thereby, they identified five general coping strategies, delay, respond, partner, legal action, and censorship, which will be illustrated with cases below. 

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Your Brand under Attack: Negative electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM) and online Firestorms in Social Media Part 1

In 2012, just 39 cents were enough to trigger an ‘online firestorm’ that broke over McDonald's Germany. What happened was that the leading fast-food brand had raised the price of its cheeseburger by exactly that amount. As a consequence, many consumers expressed their unhappiness about the price increase by communicating their displeasure on McDonald’s Facebook wall (Frickel, 2012). This in itself does not seem to be unusual within the highly-connected online world in which many companies manage their own social media presences and respond to or interact with consumers. However, it becomes unusual if the number of ‘likes’ and comments on one critical social media comment rise to exorbitant levels. Within 48 hours 81,000 users clicked on the ‘like’-button and 6,800 users commented. The company responded one day later and announced that the price for the cheeseburger would not be raised in most restaurants (Frickel, 2012).

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