For all the discussion on the relevance and importance of social media for business, for all the blog posts and conferences and webinars on why social is critical, how the medium is an evolution of our communications process, it seems that many brands still just don't believe the hype. Or maybe it's a not lack of belief, but a lack of trust in technology, maybe it's lack of time or interest - whatever the reason, two new reports show that large sections of the business community are still not convinced of the value of relevance of social, and are likely missing out on opportunities as a result.
"Hello, Is Anybody There?"
A new study conducted by The Northridge Group found that 33% of people who contacted brands with a customer-service query via social media never got a response. None at all. The State of Customer Service Experience 2015 report, which gathers the thoughts of 1,000 consumers, also showed that 26% of people turn to social media for customer service queries when they're unable to reach a representative through other channels - however, when they actually did get a response, 30% of those responses didn't meet their expectations.
Another concerning stat - nearly half of the consumers surveyed said they plan to use social media for customer service issues the same or more than they currently do in future.
So while a rising number of people are turning to social channels for customer service queries, almost 1/3 of the time they can't get a response at all. Then when they do, that response isn't adequate 1/3 of the time. The results are both surprising and logical, given the indifference some people still demonstrate to social. But what's absolutely clear from this data is that there's a massive amount of opportunity being missed by brands - and that opportunity is only going to increase as more people come to rely on social and turn to social channels for support and assistance in the purchase journey.
Another finding from the report was that 42% of consumers expect response and resolution within one hour when using social media for a customer service inquiry or issue. This isn't really anything new, we've seen stats like this before, but what is relevant is that we're seeing this same expectation repeated in study after study. And that expectation doesn't come from no-where. People are growing to expect a one hour turnaround, or less, on social media queries because many brands are already meeting this demand. More brands responding within an hour raises the expectation across the board and if your brand is failing to meet that, then you're losing reputation by comparison.
The Northridge Group report once again highlights the massive opportunities that exist for social customer service, and the growing gap between consumer expectations and those brands that are failing to meet them. Sure, you might think social media isn't for you and your brand, that your target audience isn't present on social platforms - but are you sure? A rising amount of research suggests that all brands should maintain an active social media presence, if only as a contact point, a means of enabling communication with your audience. Increasingly, consumers are looking to social channels for information, for research, for assistance. These numbers show that there is still a significant way to go for some brands in this regard - if you're lagging behind, it might be time to catch up.
The Anti-Social CMO
In a contextually related report, Marketing Land recently took a closer look at the social media presences of CMOs and/or top-level marketing executives from the Interbrand Top 100 Global Brands of 2014 to see if and how active they are on Twitter. Twitter has been hailed by many for its growing business relevance - a study published in Forbes just this week suggested that Twitter has now overtaken LinkedIn as the number one social media site for salespeople. Your CMOs and marketing execs would be best-placed to know this, right? Surely they're active on the micro-blogging giant?
Marketing Land found that "less than a third of Interbrand's top 100 global brands have CMOs with active Twitter accounts." What's more, of those Top 100 global brands, a grand total of just 31 CMOs or top-level marketing executives had active Twitter accounts.
This data is surprising - while top level execs and CMOs are no doubt very busy, given the rising relevance of social media, and the significant benefits of having an active social media being discussed in virtually every marketing and content-related forum around the world, you'd think there'd be no doubt this group of people would be most acutely aware of the opportunities and value in maintaining an active Twitter presence.
Marketing Land also found that among the top 26 companies on the Interbrand list, 10 of them don't have a CMO active on the Twitter. This despite all 10 having significant presences on the platform, with many managing "multiple brand accounts, and more than half with primary accounts that have over a million followers". So as a brand, as part of their overall brand strategy, these leaders are aware of the value of social media. But individually they don't appear to rate it as highly.
This signifies a significant opportunity being missed for some of the leaders in marketing and branding at the world's biggest companies. For us, it means we're missing out on contributions from some of the best marketing minds on the planet - having those leaders contribute to the overall discussion would obviously bring huge learning benefits for those outside of top-level board rooms. For those leaders, they're missing the chance to develop their own personal brands and represent both themselves and their employers on social networks. But then again, maybe they see too much risk in potential backlash to allow themselves to be exposed via tweet.
An Instinct for Protection
Another study, conducted by Lithium Technologies and also released this week, found that 42% of the corporate executives believe consumers have shamed their company via social media. This comes as a result of increasing consumer expectations:
"Consumers use digital channels to find and share information, reviews, and insider tips. At the same time, they are using those channels to suggest improvements and sometimes shame brands into solving their problems."
So maybe, top-level executives are less willing to expose themselves on social channels as a means of self-protection, to avoid public slip-ups or potentially damaging interactions with customers and other parties. As such, there's probably still some way to go in matching expectation with reality - while it'd be great to have more execs and leaders participating online, we may also need to be more accepting of their fallibility, their humanity. Given the potential damage that can be caused by a single, mis-guided tweet, it's understandable that those leaders have a lot to lose by opening themselves up more actively online. But then again, given the evolution of consumer expectation and connection with brands, there's also, clearly, much to gain.
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