While brand backlash (one example of a Groundswell) from social media tools are certainly an impact to the reputation of companies and how their consumers react, there are many different levels of severity from each.
First, see this list of brands that were punk’d from social media, I’ll add some categorization to each of them as I can best gauge in coming days.
To help gauge the differences, I’ve constructed these categories of brand backlash storms (leaning on the Hurricane categorization)
Category 1: Consumer revolt and use social media tools (Twitter, Blogs, YouTube) to tell their story, the brand doesn’t flinch, and there is no mainstream media coverage. Examples: A weekly, if not a daily occurance.
Category 2: The backlash extends beyond just social media tools (Twitter, blogs, YouTube), the brand makes changes based on consumer feedback, and coverage extends to mainstream media and press. Examples: Louis Vuitton brandjacked, Exxon Mobile’s Twitter experience.
Category 3: Consumers use social media tools to spread backlash and there is considerable mentions from mainstream press. the backlash is more severe resulting in significant changes from the brand (hiring, firing, processes, policies or new teams put in place). This becomes a case study for social media books and is often discussed in social media culture. Examples: Dell Hell, Comcast Cares, Kryptonite Locks, Wholefoods CEO.
Category 4: Number three plus short term financial impacts to the brand resulting in reduction of sales, revenue, increased costs, or impact to stock price less than 30 days. Examples: Apple Stock temporarily sinks from blog rumors.
Category 5: Number three plus brand backlash from social media tools resulting in long term financial impacts to the brand including reduction in sales, revenue, increased costs, and most importantly, stock price lasting over 30 days. In the most extreme cases, it causes closure of the business or bankruptcy. Examples: None.
I hope this puts things into context when we see brand backlash incidents occur.