Social Media Must Be Proactive

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When consumers address companies on social media, they expect companies to respond, usually within a day or less. It’s a daunting challenge for most, but it doesn’t have to be, as long as companies are willing to be a little more proactive, says a recent report from Clutch Research. 

According to the research, 76 percent of consumers who use social media expect companies to respond to their online comments, and 83 percent of those expect companies to respond in a day or less.

While this standard might seem intimidating, Toby Cox, content writer and marketer at Clutch and author of the report, notes that companies don’t necessarily have to completely resolve the customer’s issue in the first response. “If a company gets a complaint on social media, it’s really important for them to respond to this complaint or criticism within 24 hours,” she says. “Their response doesn’t have to necessarily fix the problem. It just has to acknowledge that that consumer’s complaint or criticism has been heard.”

Companies can do this by constantly monitoring social media to see what consumers are saying about them on their pages, review sites, or any of the dozens of sites where consumers can go to voice their comments about companies and their products or services and then having someone in charge of responding to them, she adds.

Among social media users, 58 percent told Clutch researchers that social media makes customer service easier. With this in mind, Cox suggests that companies treat social media comments the same way they would treat customer service inquiries that come in via more traditional channels, such as the phone. “By approaching their social media strategy as they would a customer service complaint, [companies] give customers that same level of service. It’s more efficient [because] customers don’t have to call customer service to voice a complaint. They can just do it on social media,” she says. 

One major caution, though, is that because social media channels are public, the way companies treat social media comments can affect brand perception, for better or for worse. “All consumers, whether they’re current consumers or potential customers of this company, can see the comment. How the company approaches this complaint or criticism can be seen by everyone and can really attest to how they treat their customers when things don’t go perfectly,” Cox says.

This is important, she explains, “because customers want to have reassurance that a company is going to take care of them when something doesn’t go as planned.”

Survey results support this assertion: 45 percent of respondents said they would view companies more positively if they responded to negative comments on social media.

Further illustrating the importance of social media to building relationships with customers, 72 percent of the survey’s respondents say they are likely to recommend companies after positive social media experiences with them. 

“In the past, before social media, if people had a complaint or a criticism, they were very limited in where they could take it,” Cox states. “With social media, it’s expanded the concept of community, and it’s expanded the reach of consumers’ voices. Now they have this new and much larger digital community where they can take their complaints and post them instantly. 

“Social media has just become an avenue of customer service, whether businesses like it or not,” she continues. “As long as companies embrace social media as a customer service tool, they can use it to their advantage; it’s when they ignore social media or don’t see the value in social media that it can get tricky and do a lot of harm to their brand if they just ignore these comments.” 

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