Is Unliking the Same as Disliking?

Super Bowl Social Sentiment and the 'Unlike' Button in Our Social-Media Data Roundup

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The social-media world moves fast. Very fast. Ferris Bueller cautioned us to stop and take a look at the world once in a while or we might miss it. But that's hard with social media. Especially as we're already in a time warp. It's 1998 all over again in terms of finding the right metrics and methods for communications in evolving media.

As the first Groupon ad ran during the pre-game, I had a column running in Tweetdeck searching for the brand's name. The flood was impossible to keep up with and Tweetdeck "throttled" my API usage back as the stream flowed. The posts weren't particularly positive with people threatening to unsubscribe, unlike and otherwise disassociate from the brand. What we didn't see were any posts asking, "What the heck is Groupon?!?"

Interesting, eh?

The social universe already knew and was already in some stage of loyalty, which was then cast into some stage of love/hate transition. And even those fans and followers didn't get the joke. The rest of the world presumably didn't figure out enough in 30 seconds to realize the satire either. The truth is that Groupon started as a social action site and is actually one of the more socially conscious and charitable startups going, but that didn't come through in the ads at all.

On the flip side, as a (cough, suburban) Detroiter, my homies were all switching their Facebook stati to "imported from Detroit" within seconds of the Chrysler ad's running.

In the old-media world, Nielsen finds neither of these ads in the top 10 "most-recalled." But when social moves that fast, it's hard to listen to the din. It's more about talking. There's a reason Twitter calls its raw live stream a "fire hose."

Which leads us to some data coming out this week.

We'll start with two takes on the social-media response to the game itself.

NetBase's Brand Passion Index found a mixed bag of results. GoDaddy's response showed lots of love. Doritos' showed lots of chatter. Volkswagen, confirming Bob Garfield's "So What" suspicions, had great conversation about the actual ad but less positive (if any) response about the brand itself. Likewise with Chrysler's spot -- although we'd like to see a geographic breakdown of that data.

Alterian's "Buzz Bowl" looked at more than 250,000 conversations about Super Bowl advertising. In its study Volkswagen got the most buzz followed by Doritos, Pepsi, Groupon and Motorola. Those five brands accounted for nearly 40% of total online conversations. VW got the most positive comments, by its count, with more than seven to one comments favoring the brand, or at least its commercial.

Measuring social sentiment is a tricky business as these two reports demonstrate. They vary significantly in their take on the Groupon response, for instance. In Alterian's report, Groupon is the only brand with more negative (2:1) comments than positive ones -- although it's worth noting that for all brands 70% to 80% of comments are rated as "neutral."

Netbase's data found mostly positive comments for Groupon although lacking the intensity of the love shown for GoDaddy, for instance.

To say this is art and not science isn't quite fair. It's more that there are a lot of different, competing sciences.

One recurring theme within the Groupon chatter was the desire to unsubscribe or otherwise disassociate from the brand.

ExactTarget and CoTweet today released new findings about the top reasons why people "unlike" a brand on Facebook, unfollow on Twitter or opt out of an email they had originally subscribed to. Sadly, "I loathed their Super Bowl ad" wasn't one of the choices.

Acquisition and retention will become important obstacles for marketers, according to this study. More than half of Facebook users have "unliked" a brand after liking it. Seventy-one percent say they are becoming more selective. For email users, 91% have unsubscribed from an email list and many more either deleted or ignore emails from marketers. Seventy-seven percent said they are more wary of giving out their email addresses than they were a year ago.

For Facebook and email, too-frequent communication was the top reason cited for dropping out. Reducing marketing clutter was also a popular choice as was repetitive or boring content, which was the leading choice for Twitter users. None of the choices reflect people unliking the brand page because they no longer like the brand. It's all about the use of the channel, not a change in loyalty.

All of this brings us back to 1998. As we listened to Neutral Milk Hotel and debated hits vs. clicks and the value of "Push" platforms, we realized then that we need more data and standards. Our industry is still wrestling with those issues even as it adds in more layers. But as the needle is moved by more and more means in more and more media it's not hard to figure out the urgent sentiment of the conversations we're having.

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