Formula for Social Media Success

Sally Falkow By Sally Falkow
Expert Author
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To be successful in social media you need to listen, learn and respond.

Some companies are not even listening: In Europe just under a third of companies have implemented monitoring and analysis of the social media conversations. (Social Media Governance 2011)  In the US 55 percent use search alerts , but  only 16 percent are using a social media monitoring tool.

social media monitoring

Too many of those that are listening are not learning from what they hear: It’s one thing to collect the data, but quite another to analyze those conversations and dig down to find customer insights, key opinion leaders, risks and opportunities. Accenture reports that 75 percent of companies don’t know where their most valuable customers are talking about them, and only 23 percent are using social media analysis. (Acting on Intelligence from Social Media, 2011)

And then we come to respond: 70 percent of companies ignore people who post comments and complaints about them on Twitter. (Maritz and Evolve24) The idea that if you ignore negative responses from customers it will just ?go away’ still seems to be pervasive, yet nothing could be further from the truth.

In pre-Internet days research showed that, on average, a customer who had a negative experience told 13 people.  Today the average Facebook user has 130 friends.  So at the very least you are looking at a 10X scenario if someone posts a negative comment about your company on their Facebook page.

What if that customer has a measure of influence online?  What if they have 1300 friends or followers? Or they are a Key Opinion Leader for your brand or industry and they have 13,000 or 130,000?

A Harris poll shows that of the customers that received a response from a company after posting negative feedback about their experience with a brand, 33% turned around and posted a positive review, and 34% deleted the original negative review.

Dell recently commissioned Forrester to do some research on the impact of responding to customers and they found that those with a listening and digital engagement initiative are rewarded with improved customer satisfaction scores, loyalty and brand metrics. (No big surprise there!)

Yet despite the fact that this seems to be self-evident, the Engagement Gap is alive and well. Businesses are lagging way behind their customers in the use of social media:

  • 80 percent of economically active people in the US are active on social media
  • Only 50 percent of companies surveyed say their social media efforts are serious, yet not a core function
  • Recent figures from Facebook show that only 25% of companies respond to comments and complaints.
  • Just 6 percent claim that their companies’ listening and engagement initiatives are integrated with other core functions
  • 25% of the UK retailers with a Twitter account responded to a question posed to them
  • 17% of UK retailers on Facebook respond to positive comments left on their walls; that figure dropped to 11% for negative comments

Social Bakers published this chart by vertical and commented that Telecom, Services, Airlines and others should have a response rate between 65 and 75% to all user questions.

A recent personal experience bears out this research:  Our family flew to the UK in October to attend my older son’s wedding. We all flew Virgin Atlantic.  We all had a less than stellar experience. Much less.

Three of us tweeted our displeasure after the flight there and again after the flight back. My younger son has a modest following.  The older one has quite a decent international following, many of them in the UK.  So does his wife. I have 7,500 thousand followers who are all in media or PR.  Some of them are major social media influencers.

None of us has heard a word from @VirginAtlantic.

In contrast, I had a disappointing experience with the Hilton at Gatwick Airport when I arrived and was stranded there due to miscommunication.  I needed assistance, a phone and internet access.  So instead of booking into the Hilton, I got a cab and found a local Band B where I got a warm welcome, lots of help and stellar service.  Once I got online I tweeted about my experience. Within minutes I had reply from @HiltonOnline. They were concerned, efficient and effective and they dealt with my issue right away.  They used the opportunity to strengthen my bond with #HHonors, assured me I was a valuable customer and kept me feeling positive about the brand. And I let my Twitter followers know that had occurred.

Every interaction with your brand is a “Moment of Truth.”  That person comes away with an impression – be it good, bad or indifferent. And they will tell others.   Lot of others. And those people  might tell their friends and followers.

It pays to map your social graph. You need to know who your customers are and how active they are online.  You should know which of your stakeholders are influential. It’s easy enough – you don’t have to have a complicated algorithmic method.  A simple score like Peer Index is a good start.

Give every customer the best service possible. Listen to their conversations online.  Learn from what you hear – analyze what’s being said.  Nurture your evangelists.  And, in the event of a slip, respond to all comments and complaints rapidly and appropriately.

Ignore them at your peril – especially those from stakeholders with online influence.  It could be a disaster in the making.

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About Sally Falkow
Sally is the author of Website Content Strategy blog: Information about the shifts in media consumption and the use of technology in marketing and PR so business can stay in touch with their rapidly moving audiences.

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