Are Haters Bad For Brands on YouTube?

It’s understandable that brands might find the presence of critics, detractors, or just plain old “haters” to be bad for their image, particularly when it comes to those who upload their negative opinions and/or experiences to YouTube.  For brand marketers, waking up to news of a viral video denigrating their products or services may signal the start to a rough day.

However, such a scenario is not necessarily cause for alarm. Rather, it presents a unique opportunity to build something highly valuable – authenticity.

Through the use of social media, it’s now possible to convert vocal critics into advocates and fans, and letting the world watch the process unfold creates authenticity. In the case of YouTube, rather than trying to eliminate the presence of critics, sometimes it is better to engage with these influencers and simply make your case. Negative stories are important stories, because a brand space absent of criticism is inherently inauthentic. A lack of diversity of opinion within a social network has that eerie distaste of a dictatorial regime – of cheating the system and bypassing communities in exchange for metrics that are shrinking in relevancy by the day.

Thus, the question is no longer “how do we silence detractors?”. Instead, it now becomes “how can we win these people over?”.

YouTube Strategies vs. Other Social Media

On YouTube, the lifespan of a video is inherently much, much longer than a tweet or a status update. Videos might sit on YouTube for years before someone uncovers it and sparks a viral sensation. And, once a video gains enough notoriety, attempts to remove the video are only met with more and more re-uploads of the same content, starting a useless game of whack-a-mole that only amplifies the video’s message.

So, why are strategies on YouTube for dealing with critics treated any differently than strategies on other social networks? Answer – they shouldn’t be.

If someone were to critique your brand on Twitter, you would probably choose to engage with them, rather than try to get the tweet retracted. This should be no different on YouTube. If anything, YouTube requires even more diligence to understand and engage with the communities in a positive way.

What not to do: A bad exchange between United Airlines and a Musician

One musician, Dave Carroll, while flying United, witnessed his guitar suffering abuse at the hands of United baggage handlers on the tarmac. When he arrived at his destination for a gig, his instrument was broken. United did nothing to remedy the situation, declining to reimburse him for the damage, so he made a video that ended up going viral:

Situations like this need to be treated as open doors rather than enemies to be ignored or eliminated. United was faced with an excellent opportunity to bolster brand sentiment and turn the story and attention into a more positive note. Instead, United only engaged after the video went viral and failed to think outside the box and offer up an authentic response, such as a video song of their own to apologize. To this day, new negative comments on the original video continue to get posted:



What to do: A great exchange between EA Sports and a YouTuber

A great example of an exchange well done occurred between YouTube user Levinator25 and EA Sports from 2008.

Levenator25 thought he saw a glitch in the game:

EA Sports played off of that for their next iteration of Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

Calling back to the organic user video, coupled with the new Google+ enabled comments section and threads, allows for brands to get conversations going in a positive direction. While some negative comments will always be around, plenty of authentic, positive reactions from fans can be found:


So, are “haters” bad for brands? Only if brands respond poorly or not at all. Moreover, when dealt with properly, the end result can actually be a positive overall thanks to the creation of authenticity and trust.

In some cases, ignoring your critics entirely may seem like the safest bet. But, without risk there is no reward. Engaging and engaging well with negative feedback, especially when the medium is video, is something brands need to do in order to really understand the future of branding and customer service. And, getting it right on YouTube can bring more rewards than anywhere else.

Engaging well on YouTube means listening to what’s being posted in order to discover complaints and then solve problems. And, if the problem is expressed through video, it is best to respond in the same medium. Companies need to be seen as able to evolve and solve problems using the same language as their customers. In markets with diversity of opinions, it is customer service that sets apart the good from the bad. Converting “haters” to advocates through video needs to be seen as more than just good marketing, or social strategy, but also as good customer service.


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  • Skooch

    Ive found that YouTube has a very vocal community – for every hater there are always advocates…and if nothing else there are always people wanting to ‘troll’ or take the opposite side just for the sake of it.

    Many times conflicts will resolve themselves…and some times as Meredith the best way is to engage in conversation…YouTube is a ‘social’ platform after all…

    All in all, ive found that interactions (not simply views) play a pivotal role in showing YouTube (the algorithm) and YouTubers about the popularity of the video…

    When YouTubers interact with the video – it shows up on their subscribers newsfeeds as “XX has commented on the video” or “XX has liked this video” which is already advocacy for your content…when their subscribers see this they will want to see what the engagement is, view the video and are more likely to advocate what that YouTuber has said on the video….

    As for YouTube itself – the computer cant tell if its positive or negative sentiment – it merely sees that:
    1. there are a lot of views
    2. there are a LOT of interactions

    Conclusion – it must be a popular video so I (YOuTube) should recommend it to people

    Ultimately – more earned media for your brand – the holly grail of viral video!

    • Meredith Gene Levine

      Yes. Please don’t feed the trolls.

  • nakedlightning

    I’m not sure that ignoring negative comments is a great idea. I know that people look to social media to see how companies behave to their customers, and seeing a torrent of negative comments could influence public opinions. Companies are scared to death of negative criticism, which leads to some of them shutting off comments on their videos. I think that’s the wrong approach to take. Anything that increases your views and shares your posts and videos is beneficial. There are so many companies listed on for instance that not only work on Facebook and Twitter, but also on increasing YouTube views. That being said, YouTube comments are rarely taken seriously by most observers. You shouldn’t completely ignore them, but you should pay attention to community feedback. If this Google+ thing they’re trying to force down our necks takes off, I’m sure that YouTube comments and sentiment will ultimately be a big part of search rankings, if they’re not already.