It’s a harsh world for brands out there.
Love and belonging or hate and cynicism, is the finicky state of brand relationships today. People express a lot online and expect a reply, especially from brands. The recent string of crisis (Maggie, KFC & Haldiram) and the instant exposure due to various social media platforms have caused customer confidence to waver dramatically.
Ankita Gaba, a social media consultant, says “More often than not, they (the online audience) utilise the medium to shame a person or a brand, what can be called as social bullying.” Social bullying and shaming has flourished as consumers do not always use the power that social media gives them to express themselves responsibly.
Let us take a closer look at this outbreak of cynicism and why social media is her/his weapon of choice to express and address.
I share or I warn
Consumers now have the upper hand when it comes to their relationship with brands. The freedom it affords and the attention it commands make social media the perfect channel for customers to vent or praise a brand. Stats have shown that
– 31% of people post online after they have a bad experience with an organization
-90% stated that positive reviews had led them to purchase from a specific brand
-50% of customers give brands only one week to reply to a question before they stop doing business with them (Dooley, 2012).
-79% of customers who complain on social media do so hoping that their friends see their dissatisfaction with the brand (marketingthink.com)
What brands are afraid of
Not that long ago, when a company experienced any negative incident like a full blown crisis it took a while for the news to get out. By the time the news made it to the daily paper or the local news broadcast channel, brands had enough time to think and contemplate on their responses. Today it takes only a couple of minutes for that negative incident to be amplified around the world to multiple audiences. Social media must play a role in crisis media response because that’s where the audience is going for their news and to find out what’s going on with your brand. These are also the people who carry your message further to their peers. A brand should be ready to respond no matter what and prevent the digital environment from becoming toxic thus causing the brand to lose out on customers.
Now, combine what I just said with the stats I presented above. If you do the math you will realize that anything negative on the brands social media channels can cause a massive loss of customers
It’s all about convenience:
There has been an eight-fold increase in social media complaints since Jan 2014 (Institute of Customer Service).
Consumer feedback is one of the greatest sources of learning/concern depending on the brand. In the past, you only had a handful of options in order to express your dissatisfaction with brands. Close friends and family are the first to hear this and you may have even filed complaints with regulatory processes. Similarly, sometimes your money can buy you some happiness and you wished there were more ways to get your recommendations out there. Customers can be much more vocal on social media and expect brands to answer their queries, instead of putting them on hold over the phone or without them having to leave the comfort of their home to stand in line at the customer care centre. Social media is also the customer’s point of contact and convenience with the brand in case he/she relocates to a new state or country.
Be direct, Be real(time)
The point to be stressed here is consistency; consistency in response time and consistency in tone. Using Social Media Listening, we have found that consumer complaints have more than doubled over the past year in the BFSI space, not because of issues with a particular product but due to customer service issues and broken promises. Whatever the case maybe, whenever consumers expect something and get something less valuable it results in disappointment and as a result complaining or ranting.
Social media is about building relationships. Even though customers are increasingly cynical, brands need to focus on listening to them at the right time and make sure that their complaints are not falling on deaf ears. Social media does not have to be inherently damaging to brands. Positive comments or tweets can be a marketing gift for brands while also reassuring customers with real time feedback.