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Companies likely feel they’re in a dammed-if-they-do, dammed-if-they-don’t predicament over political and social issues. Whatever position they take, or even if they don’t take a position, they risk complaints and boycotts by nearly half the country’s population.

Most recently, Nordstrom risked boycott when it dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, citing poor sales, drawing the tweeting anger of President Trump.

Budweiser showed how brands can use social media measurement to navigate the storms. Its Super Bowl commercial showed founder Adolphus Busch encountering hostility and difficulty when he immigrated to America in the 19th century. At one point, a man shouts “Go back home” to him. As we all know, immigration was a controversial issue back then – and is now. Budweiser wasn’t sure how the public would react, so it turned to social media for answers.

After posting the commercial on YouTube before the Super Bowl, Budweiser analyzed tens of thousands of resulting social media posts about the commercial. It found that 78 percent of online conversations were neutral or positive. Although some Twitter users urged a boycott of Budweiser – with a hashtag that misspelled the brand as “Budwiser” — company executives felt encouraged by the results and decided to air the commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast.

More organizations are likely to conduct such research in order to weather today’s “boycott culture,” according to Bloomberg. Organizations cannot avoid controversy so conducting research to determine what groups they offend will provide insights on the potential effect on sales and corporate reputation.

Social Media Measurement Advantages

Social media offers several advantages over traditional marketing research techniques, such as face to face interviews, surveys and focus groups.

Speed. Social media analytics can produce data in hours or days, as opposed to weeks or months for conventional research methods.

Accuracy. On social media, people are less disposed to social desirability bias and mistaken recall. People tend to be honest on social media, since they post their opinions without being prompted by survey questions.

Cost. Social media measurement is more affordable than traditional marketing research techniques.

Many Shoppers Expect Brands to Take a Stance

Many consumers expect brands to express their views and are willing to patronize companies with views in line with their own. A recent Weber Shandwick study reveals that.

  • 41 percent of shoppers and 46 percent of executives say companies should express an opinion or take action on controversial issues.
  • 40 percent of consumers regularly or frequently talk about how honest and ethical companies are.
  • 34 percent say they are buying more from companies or brands that share their values.

“Consumers are holding brands accountable as though they were political candidates, and they’re voting again and again,” Micho Spring, head of global corporate practice at Weber Shandwick, a public relations firm that handles crisis management, told Bloomberg.

Bottom Line: Brands increasingly face calls for boycotts no matter what they do. However, social media monitoring and measurement can help them anticipate and weather controversies with the least damage to their bottom line and corporate reputation.