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February 20, 2013

Social Media Can Either Make or Break a Company

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

When social media first reached a critical mass of acceptance among consumers, companies were initially delighted. After all, it was a largely free marketing and advertising channel. They built Facebook (News - Alert) pages and Twitter accounts, announced new products and created surveys and interactive fun activities with customers. What could be better?

Not long after, many companies’ delight turned to horror when they realized that social media is not only an outbound channel: increasingly, customers expect to use it as another media channel with which to interact with companies.

And where are all these inbound social media contacts and demands for action going? Into the marketing department, which is ill-equipped (or not equipped at all) to deal with the volume and the nature of the requests, complaints and issues.

A few smart companies quickly pulled the social media channels into the contact center (where they belong) and looked at it as an opportunity. But most companies are still struggling with social media, as evidenced by industry reports. J.D. Power recently examined 100 companies across multiple industries and analyzed 23,000 consumer responses.

The research group found that "hardly any companies are doing equally well on social marketing and social servicing."

A recent blog posted on e-Consultancy says there are good reasons for this.

“Popular social media services like Twitter (News - Alert), for instance, are for obvious reasons not ideal platforms on which to engage in a customer service dialog,” wrote blog author, Patricio Robles. “Additionally, it's not easy to create siloed social media presences for marketing and customer service. Although some companies, like Dell (News - Alert), have dedicated accounts for different purposes, there's nothing stopping your customers from tweeting their problems to whatever account they find first.”

It’s a huge challenge, to be sure, but it’s also critical to get right if a company is to succeed. Social media has become a kind of Holy Grail channel to consumers, because they know their complaints and demands will have far more impact than in a one-to-one interaction with a company. After all, they can air their grievances with a few hundred or a few thousand friends.

But it’s not just a matter of putting out fires; successful social media integration can offer a nearly unlimited number of positive opportunities, writes Robles.

“According to J.D. Power and Associates, positive interactions between companies and consumers via social channels improved overall perception of a company and that this perception was correlated with increased likelihood of purchase,” he wrote. “Likewise, negative interactions decrease the likelihood of purchase. This may not be entirely surprising, but confirmation of what one might assume serves as a powerful reminder of the stakes when companies engage with consumers through services like Facebook and Twitter.”

Like it or not, social media can either break you (if you ignore it) or make you (if you do it right). Time to get busy and stop pretending it doesn’t exist.

Edited by Braden Becker
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