What to do if President Trump calls out your brand on Twitter
What should you do if the leader of the free world calls out your brand on Twitter? Columnist John Donnelly III analyzes two recent cases and offers tips.
When the leader of the free world spends 140 characters calling out your brand, what should you do? More than 28 million people follow President Trump on Twitter, and when he tweets, the media, markets and consumers pay attention.
For brands that find themselves in the president’s social media spotlight, a few tweets can quickly turn into a corporate crisis. Effective responses must start with data analysis.
When social media conversation recently got political for retailers Nordstrom and L.L. Bean, social intelligence revealed consumer sentiment and brand perception — two keys for mapping out smart reactions.
Lessons from L.L. Bean
The #GrabYourWallet movement put L.L. Bean on its do-not-shop list earlier this year after learning that board and family member Linda Bean had reportedly donated thousands of dollars to a pro-Trump political action committee. There was plenty of social media conversation about the boycott call, and then President-elect Trump added his voice to the discussion, thanking Linda Bean for her support and urging consumers to give the brand their business.
Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean. @LBPerfectMaine
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
Crimson Hexagon, my employer, analyzed social media data from Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and blogs during the first 11 days of the year to determine the trends in consumer sentiment and emotions about L.L. Bean. Between January 1 and January 11, the number of L.L. Bean-related social media posts showing disgust increased by 18 percent. In the same period, posts related to the retailer expressing joy decreased by 23 percent.
A few other pertinent findings we determined include these:
- During the first 11 days of 2017, 10 percent of L.L. Bean conversation was about then President-elect Trump. More than 55 percent of those conversations were classified as “disgust” and 20 percent were classified as “sadness.”
- Six percent of the conversation about the brand included mentions of boycott.
- Volume tapered off after January 10.
For its part, L.L. Bean expressed its political neutrality as a company through social media messages across its channels. In the months following Trump’s tweet, sentiment for L.L. Bean returned to relatively normal levels. Compared to January, disgust and sadness dropped 25 percent and 23 percent, respectively, and joy increased by 13 percent since February.
Lessons from Nordstrom
On February 8, President Trump tweeted about Nordstrom’s decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
Nordstrom reacted with a statement explaining its choice to stop selling the first daughter’s clothing was about product performance, not politics.
The question we wanted to answer was this: Did Nordstrom’s announcement and the president’s tweet spark social media conversations that were positive or negative for the brand? Here’s what we found:
- There was an increased volume of conversation about the brand in general during this period (specifically the day the president tweeted and the days following).
- More than 50 percent of the spike in social media message volume was neutral about the brand, so we focused our analysis on the categories that showed “improved” and “worsened” brand perception. In the first few days after Nordstrom’s announcements, these disparate sentiments were about even.
- From February 7 to February 11, “improved” rose to a much greater degree, and the top three retweets aligned with the “improved brand perception” category.
- Among consumers whose perception of Nordstrom improved, we found expected affinities for brands such as “The Daily Show” and MSNBC. Those whose brand perception worsened had affinity for Fox News and Glenn Beck.
The data showed strong feelings from both the pro- and anti-Nordstrom points of view, but those who felt positively about the brand’s decision to drop Ivanka Trump clothing were more vocal in online conversations. An offline data point reflected what one would expect from the analysis of social media activity: Nordstrom shares rose 7 percent after the president’s tweet denouncing the brand.
Best practices for brands
So, what does this all mean for the next brand that finds itself named alongside a hashtag like #MAGA or #TheResistance? The experiences of L.L. Bean and Nordstrom suggest the best approach is to share a statement on social media clarifying your company values and decision-making process, and analyze conversations to learn as much as possible about the sentiment and affinity of your target markets. Then, wait. If the pattern holds, your spotlight will be short-lived.