The Yogurt Games On Facebook: Influence Vs. Sentiment

Yogurt650The battle spoons have come out. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Chobani Chief Marketing Officer Peter McGuinness declared, “2014 is the year of the yogurt wars.” With Super Bowl Sunday on the horizon, we’re about to witness the first of many battles. Greek yogurt titans Oikos, Yoplait, and Chobani are all looking to capitalize with primetime spots during Super Bowl XLVIII, but is reach all they’re after? If so, they’re making a mistake. In a market that accounted for $7.6 billion in sales in 2013, there’s already a high level of general awareness. More than starting the conversation, brands need to work on shaping it, and influence in the Greek yogurt market is the holy grail. For that, brand advocacy is key, and Facebook is an open door.

Keywords In Yogurt Brand Communities

SullivanYogurtKeywordsChart

While Chobani certainly has the richest history on the Greek yogurt shelves (39 percent market share in 2013, according to Sanford C. Bernstein), the brand is losing traction both in the market and its own Facebook brand page. In the Chobani community of 860,000, nearly all posts are spoiled by large comment threads referencing the company’s GMO (genetically modified organisms) woes and very public breakup with Whole Foods Market. We used the Crowdly Keyword Tracker to measure the most influential and frequent words in the Chobani brand community. Unfortunately, “GMO” was the overwhelming winner — fan comments containing “GMO” generated an astounding 37 times as many likes as other more positive keywords such as “yogurt” and “love” over the past two weeks.

Influence Of Keywords Via Likes Generated

Comparatively, Chobani’s competitors are enjoying mostly positive sentiment in their own communities, with “Full House” and “John Stamos” as the most influential two keywords in the Oikos community (a nod to its spokesperson and recent ad campaign) and “love” as the leader in Yoplait. The shift in sentiment between the Chobani community and its competitors represents a more important shift in the hearts of the Greek yogurt consumer — one that will surely dictate a victor in the battle for customer loyalty.

Shades Of Influence: Advocates And Trolls

For Facebook brand communities, we track advocate retention to determine fan loyalty within a brand community. This metric looks at how well a brand does in driving regular re-engagement from its top 5 percent. The most influential fans that drive these brand conversations are typically overwhelmingly brand advocates, but occasionally, persistent brand detractors, the community “trolls,” will make their way into the top 5 percent. Both types of influencers contribute by consistently engaging with brand content and other fans, and shaping the conversations within that page.

A healthy advocate retention score hovers between 15 percent and 25 percent, depending on industry, and both Yoplait (21 percent) and Chobani (18 percent) hit the mark, while Oikos (7 percent) comes up short. The main difference is that Yoplait’s community is built on conversations with true fans (advocates), while Chobani’s consistent engagement is mostly the result of trolls redirecting the conversation back to the brand’s use of GMOs and its recent recall.

Brand advocates are certainly mixed in with the trolls and come to Chobani’s defense, but with little to no response from the brand. This ostrich approach — in which Chobani buries its head, hoping that the naysayers eventually tire of their onslaught of criticisms — is dangerous and inevitably a doomed approach. What I’ve found is that trolls, driven by one or more negative issues, are engaging dozens of times each as the brand retreats, while advocates raising their hand as brand defenders find themselves unsupported and rarely bother coming back.

Nurturing fans like “Advocate No. 1” and addressing the concerns of members like “Troll No. 1” (both pictured below) is necessary for Chobani to shift the conversations from offensive attacks from its own Facebook community to appreciative and useful commentary on what the brand is trying to do.

SullivanYogurtAdvocateSullivanYogurtTroll

The Writing On The Wall

Heading into Super Bowl Sunday, now is the time for each brand to leverage its own Facebook community to gain maximum buzz before, during, and after the game. With a growing, enthusiastic fan army to bolster all of its efforts and deep pockets to help facilitate growth, Yoplait should expect to gain serious market share in the yogurt aisle in 2014.

Dan Sullivan is the founder and CEO of “after-like marketing” firm Crowdly.

Generic yogurt image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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