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“Buy our new soft drinks now! Their on sale until January 1.” Notice a mistake in that sentence? If you do, then you are like many other users of social media services. A surprising study released by Disruptive Communications, a London-based brand agency, surveyed over 1,000 people and found that grammar and spelling errors on social media are much important for companies to consider than expected. The study demonstrates that the number one reason why consumers lower their opinion of a brand in social media is poor spelling or grammar (42.5% of respondents chose this option), while the second reason is posting too much sales-driven content (just 24.9% of respondents). According to Disruptive Communications, younger age groups tend to care less about grammar and spelling as a proportion. For example, only 20.9% of people aged 18-24 were concerned with poor use of the English language.

pepsi

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Sean Loyless(haggismac)

            According to Business Insider, Grammarly, a software proofreading service, conducted an analysis of large companies’ online postings and its results seem to corroborate Disruptive Communications’ findings. In its test, Grammarly combed through the postings of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, two companies that are involved in one of the largest brand battles in the world considering each firm’s international presence, abundant resources, and vast marketing budgets. Coca-Cola was found to have just 0.9 writing mistakes per 100 words while Pepsi had four times as many, 3.6 writing mistakes per 100 words. Grammarly did not make definite conclusions with its analysis, but suggested that Pepsi’s more infrequent grammar errors could lead to damage in brand reputation and relations with customers, investors, and competitors.

I was very surprised at the results of both studies. We talked in class about how social media has led to many abbreviations and significantly less importance placed on grammar within social networking sites. I would have predicted that when companies made grammar errors on their social media accounts, it would not have a material impact on their reputation. I can even speak from experience. To illustrate, I am a fan of both Pepsi and Dairy Queen on Facebook. I remember a post a few weeks ago by Pepsi using “it’s” instead of “it” and another post by Dairy Queen spelling the word “blizzard” incorrectly. The mistakes stood out clearly, and I caught them immediately. However, my opinion of the two companies was not really tarnished. I do remember wondering at the time how these companies with vast resources and thousands of dollars dedicated toward social media marketing teams could make such glaring errors on public forums. Nevertheless, I completely forgot about the mistakes until writing this blog post. Most importantly, I can say with certainty that those errors did not affect in any way my inclination towards purchasing a good from the companies; I am as likely to buy a Pepsi drink or Dairy Queen dessert as I was before seeing the mistakes.

The studies described above seem to demonstrate that consumers hold individuals and companies to different standards when it comes to social media content. It is more acceptable for an individual to use many acronyms and make grammar errors than it is for corporate marketing teams. This makes sense considering that companies devote much more time and money to their social media content than regular individuals do. However, I did not expect that such a large percentage (42.5%) of consumers found grammar errors to be the most important factor in brand image on social media. I expected the number to be much lower, around 10% or 15%, and I expected the key reason for damaged brand image is posting too often and spamming newsfeeds.

Feature Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Chris Chan (crazytales562)

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