How to Improve Your Social Response: 3 Lessons Learned

social media, Social Media Marketing

December 17, 2012 by

In a world of instant gratification-obsessed customers, Twitter is rising in popularity as a medium for seeking  service. One recent report even found consumers expect a response within two hours.

To this end, I conducted a research project recently meant to assess whether companies have started to prioritize providing customer service on Twitter. The experiment – called The Great Social Customer Service Race – tested 14 of the world's top brands including HP, Pepsi, Walmart and more. Part of the goal was to find tips others could use to improve their response times.

But first, a little bit about the race. Myself and three other Software Advice employees used our personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks. Half of the time we used the @ symbol with the company's Twitter handle, the other half we didn't.

The questions fell into one of five categories:

  • Urgent
  • Positive
  • Negative
  • FAQ
  • Technical

Here's what we learned.

1. Are You Listening @ or no @?

In a consumer support context, many social CRM systems use sophisticated algorithms to identify, route and prioritize social help requests in real time. They can be programmed to listen for @ mentions, mentions without your Twitter handle, and messages with a # and your brand name. You should listen for all three.

During the race, there was a huge difference in response rate between messages with the @ and those without. One could make the argument that responding to messages without the @ is invasive, but this is not always true.

These messages can often present an opportunity to demonstrate proactive customer service, particularly if the customer is upset. This can surprise and delight that person, effectively increasing your likelihood that they will spread word of mouth marketing.

In the opposite case where you catch a positive mention without your @ Twitter handle, marketing can retweet that message. A layperson talking positively about your brand is significant'y more impactful than anything marketing creates on their own.

2. Prioritize and Conquer

It isn't feasible for many companies to respond to everything on Twitter. For this reason, it's critical they have a system for surfacing the most important tweets – those that indicate risk of switching brands or those with high purchase intent, for example. Many participants in the social race missed messages in both of these categories.

This can be done through social CRM programming rules that consider keyword identifiers and sometimes social clout or customer purchase history.  Moving tweets with "thank you,” “help,” “mad,” “fail” to the front of the service queue is extremely important for prioritizing response. Other keywords could be more specific to your company.

3. Make Your Advocates Feel Special

In addition to these keywords, you should have a system for identifying brand advocates and social detractors. During the race, we each tweeted one brand as many as seven times – I expected to see a change in the response rate or speed of response. But there was no change.

Tracking your Twitter interactions by customer will give you this ability. Nurturing a brand advocate increases the likelihood they will stick with your brand and share your messages. Finding detractors can improve their opinions about your brand and potentially mitigate their impact.

These are just a few of the lessons we learned during the race. Check out the infographic for more details on each brand's performance.

About the Author

Ashley Furness is a market analyst with Software Advice.

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