When it comes to social media, many companies are sending the wrong message.
New research from J.D. Power & Associates finds that companies need to use social media for both marketing and customer service. "A one-pronged approach to social [media] is no longer an option," said Jacqueline Anderson, director of social media and text analytics at J.D. Power & Associates, in the report.
"Companies that are focused only on promoting their brands and deals or only servicing existing customers are excluding major groups of their online community, negatively impacting their satisfaction, and influencing their future purchasing decisions," she says.
It's a common problem, Anderson points out, because social media efforts typically start in the marketing department, and then, even when the service component gets added to the mix, it's kept entirely separate from marketing.
"A lot of times, there's this huge disconnect between departments and what they're doing on social," she says. And then, "if customers want service and you're pushing discount coupons out to them while ignoring their attempts to connect with you, you're going to end up with dissatisfied consumers," she wrote in the report, titled "The 2013 Social Media Benchmark Study."
The study finds a direct correlation between customer satisfaction with a brand's social media interactions and the likelihood to buy from that company. According to the research, 87 percent of customers with positive interactions are more likely to buy from the company again, while among those with negative experiences, 10 percent were negatively influenced. "The more satisfied customers are with your social media [presence], the more likely they are to purchase, and the more positive their perceptions of your company are," Anderson tells CRM .
The research also found stark differences in how consumers of different ages use social media. Thirty-nine percent of consumers ages 30–49 and 38 percent of those 50 and older interact with companies in a social marketing context, while only 23 percent of consumers ages 18–29 do so.
Conversely, 43 percent of consumers ages 18–29 use social media for service requests; only 18 percent of those over 50 do.
Getting older generations to interact via social media for service requests is another missed opportunity. "Customers often come in through the servicing channel and are so impressed with how [the interaction] went that they are far more open to other communications," Anderson says.
But in the long run, brands cannot take a blanket approach to social media, she warns, suggesting that companies need to fine-tune their interactions to meet customers' needs.
That means not only seeing how they interact with you, but how they interact with competitors, then tracking their responses and actions afterward, according to Anderson.
She suggests that companies incorporate dynamic content into their social media interactions because it increases customers' overall perception of the brand. Ideally, companies should send out one message a day to customers.
And even in their marketing, one message is not enough. "Some companies try way too hard to only be entertaining or to only push out coupons when what some customers really want is information about the company and its products," Anderson reports.
The research also found that the auto industry performs particularly well in marketing and service through social media. Car manufacturers, Anderson says, “are in a unique position because they have products that consumers are really passionate about.
The report singles out Southwest Airlines, Virgin America, Toyota, Ford, Capital One, Chase, and Florida Power & Light as brands that perform both functions well in social media.