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December 18, 2012

Many Retailers Still Aren't Fully Grasping Social Media; Twitter Fares Worst

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

If you follow call center and customer support news, you’ll know that in recent years, the most often repeated advice is to pay attention to social media. Customers view Facebook, Twitter (News - Alert) and others as additional channels through which to communicate with the companies they patronize, and they expect high levels of customer service through social media, just as they would with a phone call.

It turns out that most companies aren’t listening very well.

A recent study released by e-commerce and digital marketing company Acquity Group, the “2012 Brand eCommerce Audit,” found that major retailers are leaving 73 percent of customer tweets unanswered. This is a crisis for the retail industry: not answering individual tweets is one thing; but failing to engage with customers via social media is another thing entirely.

As the nation becomes more mobile and more and more people carry smartphones in their pockets, they are increasingly interacting with companies in a smorgasbord of media: a Web browsing session might lead to a chat session or a click-to-call request. An e-mail might lead to a phone call. A phone call might be routed into a self-service IVR session. A tweet might lead to an upsell or cross-sell offer from a company. A friend’s Facebook post might lead to a sale. 

Image via Shutterstock

In other words, it’s important that companies not silo their channels into a collection of fragmented bits of customer records. The multiple media – telephone, Web, mobile and social – must be fully integrated into a cohesive whole that can capture the entirely of the customer relationship history in one place.

The Acquity Group study found that while nearly every top brand on the list of companies studied has a Facebook page, and 45 out of 50 are on Twitter, only 12 brands had a cohesive presence across all five of the major social networks analyzed (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube (News - Alert)). Twitter is apparently offering the biggest challenge for retailers: the microblogging service had the largest gap between usage and interaction, the Chicago Herald is reporting today.

The 10 retailers that scored the best overall in social interaction with customers include, in order of ranking: Target, Home Depot, RadioShack, Bath and Body Works, Nordstrom, Gap, eBay (News - Alert), Coach, American Eagle Outfitters and Banana Republic.

When it comes to new multimedia channels, the companies studied were most active on YouTube, with 80 percent of the brands leveraging the channel at an 85 percent engagement rate. While only 44 percent of the companies have a presence on Instagram, those that do have a high level of interaction (79 percent). Pinterest was identified by the study as the most popular up and coming social network, with 60 percent adoption and 70 percent interaction.

The lack of attention to Twitter is an urgent fix companies need to make. Recent research from TOA Technologies (News - Alert) found that about 80 percent of Tweets from customers to retailers are complaints and other negative feedback, and customers who provide negative feedback on an experience with a company can have a much broader impact on the equity of the brand in question (particularly if they have a lot of followers).

In October, when British actor Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame tweeted that dealing with Time Warner Cable drained him “of his will to live,” the cable company had to go into full-on damage control mode and received heaps of negative press coverage. (When Captain Jean-Luc Picard tells his millions of followers that a company stinks, that company had best sit up and pay attention.)

While social media engagement may be a scary prospect for companies that already feel overwhelmed trying to maintain customer loyalty and attract new customers at the same time, by failing to pay the attention they should to newer social media channels, they are undermining the very successes they are trying to attain.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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