Only people who care stand up and argue, defend, fight or otherwise make their position very clear. Interesting enough – the more disappointing a situation gets, the louder the conversation and the bigger the impact for a brand. An age old saying goes: "The worst thing to be talked about – is not to be talked about". A few companies are actually learning from the show business how this all works.
Scandals and disappointments – strategic tools
If there is no scandal – create one. Hollywood: Whether you love your partner or not – get divorced. "Shocking the nation does more to your image than being a nice guy – being Mr.Niceguy is of no value". There are at least two companies in the social web that are leveraging and mastering that technique: Twitter and Klout. Both in their very own way.
The world knows and everybody within Twitter that their technology is absurdly bad. With a few hundred million on the bank it would be absolutely no problem at all to fix it. But that would be worst. Failing is an art. And Twitter knows to master it. Let it crash and everybody is talking about it. The next big crash at Twitter will be extremely well prepared and timed. It will happen so that all News Media will talk about it without having an advantage like "Twitter is down but here is the news from us". That would be bad – and guess what – that never happened. Coincidence? Not at all – because failure is part of the promotional schema – carefully planned and built into the brand reputation mechanism. Scarcity is a strategic tool in creating demand and even value. Crashes provide an additional level of scarcity into the daily operation – in this case of Twitter. The only risk: A Twitter competitor comes in with an equally cool – yet more reliable system. But that is not in sight – and even if one could be identified in a far distance. Hey just stop the crashes and find a new way to create drama.
Klout's Growth with Anti Reputation
Klout is another brand with a masterful organized drama strategy. There are people who claim to find jobs because of their Klout and others who loose it because it went down. Making some changes without any communication and let the folks out there stand up and argue how bad Klout is. A perfect promotion. Klout would never have such a noise level in the market if not for their strategically planned chaos. Some of the leading social media influencer just quite Klout because of that – rather quietly without doing them the favor of being vocal about it. And this is another thing Klout learned. Passive aggression – like leaving without noise – is not hearting the image even if many of the top gun social media are no longer "klouting around". The voice of the masses took over and do the job for them.
Why do people care?
Because measuring and valuing influence is in interesting aspect of social media. Those who never had any significant influence obviously find it very interesting to be at least seen in or slightly above average. As such Klout can easily play with those users and whether the leading influencers stay with it or leave, actually makes no difference. Liz Strauss said to me recently "You can never measure influence – no matter how hard you try" and I think this hits the inner core of Klout's problem – you just can't measure it. But what you can do is create a ton of noise and continue to give those who are covered by the masses at least something to hold on to it and people continue to care.
The art of brand reputation
The real art is to let the noise go on for a while and then fix it in a way that the masses are ok with it. YES, this looks like diametrically opposed to the influence model – but it actually isn't. Influence has many faces and masses have influence just as such. That means even if the top guns leave Klout or Twitter for that matter – the masses will continue to join in numbers that are hundred or thousand times as big as those who leave. In a year from now the current noise around Klout will be faint background noise and the number of users may have doubled. The remainder of the brand reputation may be – "Boy they have grown a lot". In the mean time Klout has enough time to develop a "real brand reputation".
What can we learn?
In both cases a very counter intuitive brand strategy is leading to success. It is a risky undertaking but with careful planning maybe more successful than just a plain vanilla brand strategy. We also learn dealing with mistakes, whether carefully planned or happening by accident has strategic importance as it inherits a huge opportunity for a dialog with the respective market.