One of the arguments in favor of using social media, even when you can’t quantify the benefits, is that social media has value beyond dollars and cents, and one important aspect of this value is risk control.
Being present in relevant social media channels enables you to listen to conversations about your brand. When the conversation is positive, you can simply thank the person, or just ignore it. But if the conversation is negative – if the person is complaining about your brand – social media enables you to immediately address the problem, before it escalates.
In other words, social media can be used to provide customers with immediate customer service, the type of service they are unlikely to get through your website or even via the phone.
Customers are increasingly aware of that. Many still email or call a company when they have a problem, but if they don’t get an immediate response, they post their complaint on the company’s social media channels. These complaints are often accompanied by graphic photos that illustrate the issue.
The following screen shot from the Facebook page of a prominent yogurt brand beautifully demonstrates how a brand’s social media page can be used by a frustrated customer to complain. While this may seem damaging to the brand, I believe that the prompt response by the brand is, in this case, beneficial to the company and reinforces its image as a company that cares about its customers:
Social media has given a lot of power to consumers. The ability to make their complaints public has forced companies to take those complaints more seriously. When I started out as a blogger and social media manager, it never occurred to me that a big part of my job would be monitoring conversations about my clients and quickly responding. I didn’t realize that part of my role would be to provide customer service. But it is, and it’s becoming increasingly common for consumers to skip the email and the customer service phone number and head directly to a company’s social media channel when they have a question or need to solve an issue.
I used to think that social media gave power to consumers at the expense of brands. In the past, brands were in full control over what was said about them, at least when it came to marketing. Now, consumers have the power, at least to some extent, to control what’s being said about a brand. But as long as you are aware of this, you can take this as an opportunity not just to make things right when they go wrong for an individual customer, but also to show everyone else that you care. The customer can initiate a negative conversation, but if you’re vigilant and keep your cool, you still have the power to turn it into a positive message about a company that cares.