Social Media Lessons for Sponsors from the US Election

Russell Glenister, SnapRapid founder & CEO

Donald Trump’s election to the White House is having a profound effect not only on the political establishment but on the media and pollsters who failed to see his victory coming.

As with Brexit, the polls called the result wrongly, while established news organisations were left floundering in the slipstream of far faster-moving social media.

John King of the mighty CNN – reported in the Financial Times – lamented that the networks were “not having a reality-based consideration” while social media provided a personal platform to vent, endorse, dismiss, praise or rubbish candidates and their policies instantaneously and without necessary recourse to possibly inconvenient facts.

For a range of reasons people think and act differently when they are protected by the shield of social media and, interestingly, it appears to make them more willing to reveal their true thoughts. Pollsters got it wrong at least in part because people are not always inclined to reveal their true feelings or intentions in a “more personally exposing” one to one survey, while much the same can be said about talking to the mainstream media which, with the benefit of hindsight, simply missed the big story.

This was an election won on emotion and sentiment rather than simple hard facts, and the ability to express and share that sentiment through social media played a major role in the Trump victory. Whereas traditional media had always been thought of as the driver of public opinion and indeed even occasionally taken credit for election success – Brits will remember a post-election claim that ‘It was The Sun what won it! – they appear to have been superseded by the combined might of individual voices and those who are able to influence them in the social media space.

While the election may have brought this trend centre stage, the facts are that it is far from new and extends way beyond politics into almost every aspect of daily life and consumer decision-making.

It is now completely clear that if you want to understand how people regard an individual, an issue, product or service, you need to fully understand the conversation around it on social media and if you want to build a positive – or indeed, negative – view of any entity, social media is where you start.

This realisation should be a wake-up call for sponsors and rights holders alike; sponsors because they need their brands to be favourably regarded and endorsed on social media and rights owners because they need to understand how their own brands and those of their partners are performing and perceived. Without that understanding they are all working in the dark.

Sponsorship is no longer all about numbers. We’ve known for years that the traditional ways of valuing sponsorship – based largely on TV audiences – are increasingly unfit for purpose in an age where TV is no longer dominant. The rules have changed and whether brands are analysing performance or developing sponsorship strategy, the key is understanding what’s happening on social media in a new, more comprehensive and rounded way.

And that means understanding not only the volume of social media coverage being attracted by sponsor brands but the context and sentiment around it and the way that it links to other issues or entities.

This is an area my team and I have been working in for the past two years, developing technologies that deliver a 360-degree picture of what is happening across social and digital media by analysing vast volumes of social media posts – not only visual value, based around logo exposure in videos and still images, but what is being discussed and by whom, listening for tone and sentiment as much as straight forward mention and exposure value. Capturing the underlying emotion around a sponsor and property that tells the whole story – something which traditional media so spectacularly failed to do at the US election.

We have moved into a new era in which understanding the social media environment is not simply nice-to-do but has to be front and centre of everything. That was the thinking behind the launch of the SnapRapid Athlete Index, which has been developed as a tool for sponsors working with athletes across a multitude of sports.

The Index goes way beyond counting the number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers to providing deep analysis of what is being said by and about the athletes, establishing the way they are regarded and the people and entities they are linked to. In choosing an athlete to endorse a brand, that depth of data is of paramount importance to the selection process, enabling brands to assess suitability based on empathy and attitude and the regard in which they are held, publically. At its core is the question of influence and being able to identify the most effective and appropriate influencer for a brand.

On first sight, there may appear to be a huge gulf between an election for the most powerful office in the world and sponsorship and endorsements. But the reality is that there are fundamental lessons to be learned about the way that social media captured what was going on, told the whole story and helped foment the emotion which fuelled the Trump success.

It provided further evidence – if it were needed – of the extent to which social media has become the most vital and vibrant arena for building (and destroying) brand reputation and value and underscores why sponsors and rights owners desperately need to understand what is happening to their brands in the social and digital space.

The media world has changed forever and sponsorship and personality marketing simply have to keep up if they are to remain relevant.

Note: We have soft launched SnapRapid Athlete Index, for more information please contact me.

brandsocial mediaSponsor

Russell Glenister • 13th December 2016

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