In March, sharp-eyed Snapchat users saw a particularly tone-deaf ad that asked if they’d rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown.

Rihanna came back with a stinging retort that caused a four percent dip in the platform’s stock price – a loss of about $800M – with a much more significant impact to the brand’s reputation.

After all, this comes on the heels of last month, when Kylie Jenner idly wondered if any of her 24.5 million Twitter followers were, like her, also not opening Snapchat anymore. That one offhand observation from another powerful social media influencer cost the company an estimated $1.3 billion in lost market value as shares plummeted the following day.

Whether it’s a social media giant like Snapchat or a Fortune 500 company, the winds of fortune sometimes seem to blow capriciously (and other times, are all too earned). But if companies consistently measure brand health – by analyzing social media and traditional media data in real time – they’ll feel just which way those winds are starting to blow before they’re knocked down.

Let’s consider some elements around the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of brand health measurement.

There’s a not a world of difference between then and now – but a universe

Most large enterprises aren’t quite hitting their stride when it comes to managing, analyzing, understanding, and using social and media insights for operational and strategic decision making. The average Fortune 500 company is 80 years old; the oldest, the Bank of New York Mellon, was founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1784, 234 years ago. They were built for an entirely different time, when selling quality products and services was the primary way to succeed in business and build an enduring reputation. And although these enterprises have effectively evolved their offerings to meet modern demand, understanding brand health today is a hugely different prospect than just launching the next big thing.

There’s much more to contend with, including:

  • Consumers who make decisions based not just on quality, but on elements like a company’s sustainability efforts, the impact of the products on the environment, its commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts, its perceived stance on current ethical and moral issues, treatment of labor, etc.
  • The speed and scale of communication platforms, which can spread messages – both positive or negative – across the globe in seconds, uniting customers, activists, politicians, social influencers, celebrities, non-governmental actors, human rights campaigners, and other stakeholders for and against them.
  • More channels, which create more noise, making it challenging to see what matters and what doesn’t. Layer on top of that issues like bots and fake news – which can attack companies, CEOs and industries at will – and it is overwhelming.

In a social era, brand health measurement allows us to ask better questions – and get better answers

Before, C-suite leaders might ask relatively simple, straightforward questions: Who is covering us in the media? What kind of coverage did we get? How can we track public relations and marketing progress?

Those are still relevant. But if we’re measuring brand health as we should, we also need to be asking questions like: How can I align communications with our business goals? How’s our message pull-through and where is it resonating? How can we protect and build our brand with this information? Using social and traditional media analysis more consistently can help companies pull back the curtain on insights that ultimately drive better outcomes. Think uncovering new marketplace opportunities, gaining a deeper understanding of various audience segments, or increasing web conversions and sales as prime examples.

Brand Reputation matters

Brand health is tied to reputation is tied to revenue. For example, recent research shows that across the S&P 500, the top ten companies pushing meaningful corporate social responsibility programs enhanced shareholder value by $63B. Research shows that 60 percent of a brand’s market value is attributed to its reputation. Let that marinate for a moment. Not an enterprise’s product. Not a company’s services. Something that, at first glance, appears completely intangible – the perception of an enterprise. What’s more, 75 percent of those who serve as board directors identify reputational risk as a real concern, although it remains all too easy for companies to dismiss reputation as fluff. Yet the research shows it shouldn’t be ignored – not when there’s a solid connection to revenue and market value.

Brands thus need to pay attention to the early canaries in the coal mine that signify something’s coming. In the Snapchat redesign issue, the company had been extensively criticized for its new look even before the Kardashians’ half-sister tweeted. 83 percent of user reviews were negative, for instance, and user reaction was widely reported by tech and mainstream media outlets. In short, the brand was imperiled even before Ms. Jenner made her comment – and brand health measurement after the fact would never have helped Snapchat address or mitigate the early response.

But here’s where Snapchat and other brands like it can benefit: by surfacing early influencers talking about issues in real time, the sentiment associated with those conversations, the velocity with which discussions are spreading, and even if bots are helping to share the news. Although that intel may not be positive, these early warning signals help companies understand, prepare, and counter brand-damaging issues (or, conversely, make the most of a magnificent moment in time). It’s a classic illustration of knowledge translating to power.

Learn more about how to build and protect your brand in our new white paper: “Building and Protecting the Health of Today’s Purpose-driven Brands