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Virgin tops positive online buzz index as Orange dips

LONDON - Brands including Virgin Atlantic who are engaging in customers online conversations are earning positive reputations but the amount of negative online chatter is increasing due to the economic downturn, according to a new study.

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The Kaizo Advocacy Index, which measures the amount of positive, negative and passive chatter about brands on websites including Twitter and Facebook, found that many brands need to increase their online engagement to mitigate negative customer feedback.

The survey monitors web chatter about 20 brands across four sectors -- airlines, mobile, software and food and found that Virgin Atlantic, as it has for the last three studies, remains the highest rated brand.

Mobile phone network Orange, which scored well in the summer 2008 survey, dropped dramatically in the newest version of the index after a large amount of negative chatter about its customer service.

The survey assigns positive, neutral or negative scores for online comments and calculates an index by subtracting the percentage of negative comments from the percentage of positive.

Orange, which scored a +34 in the summer 2008 survey, dropped down to -0.8 in the winter 2009 survey.

According to the survey, Orange customers went online to discuss poor customer service experiences.

One commenter wrote: "Orange voted number 1 for the second year for customer support...yeah...right...I lost count of the times I rang 150 to report a fault."

An Orange spokesperson said they were unaware of the Kaizo survey but said the company does monitor online conversations to ensure customer issues are resolved.

Orange said: "We have a dedicated online CS team that monitors web forums, blogs and websites for Orange specific issues, and responds to customer online where appropriate.

"The nature of the online environment presents us with an opportunity to both proactively help our customers out, whilst giving us important feedback to make our business even better."

T-Mobile, which ranked the highest in the mobile index with a score of +14.6 had a variety of positive and negative comments, but a lot of chatter was dedicated to promoting T-Mobile as the brand with the best deals.

Rhodri Harries, managing director of Kaizo, said: "In the mobile sector, customers frequently comment and engage online both positively and negatively.

"Brands need to be extremely active responding to posts online as well as developing consistent proactive online communications strategies to maintain brand reputation."

Popular marketing campaigns also had a dramatic affect on brand scores, such as Hovis, which benefited from its recent £15m, 122-second television spot.

Virgin Atlantic managed to maintain its popularity although the brand did receive some criticism for firing 13 employees after they made negative comments about passengers on Facebook.

The survey said that by sustaining an active online presence Virgin was able to balance out the impact of the negative comments and also scored well for its 25th anniversary campaign.

Food brands Kelloggs and Heinz also scored highly in the survey as a result of increased focus, frequency and involvement online, while brands such as BMI, Microsoft and Ryanair's lower scores were due to poor customer service.

Harries said: "As a simple first step brands need to identify who is saying what about them and where and then take steps to engage in conversations.

"This isn't a replacement to traditional PR, but an obvious extension to the way brands should communicate. What is key, though, is that success requires brands to engage in conversations and not simply broadcast news.

"Those brands that ignore this, or simply see it as an online version of what they do offline, do so at their long term peril."

The Top 10 rated brands were:

  1. Virgin Atlantic
  2. Hovis
  3. Symbian
  4. Heinz
  5. Kellogg's
  6. Danone
  7. T-Mobile
  8. O2/Vodafone (tie)
  9. EasyJet

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