The Current State of Social Engagement by the Numbers

By Guest Comment

SocialEngagement

A recent SocialTimes article compared social media with the Wild West of online advertising channels, and it was pretty spot on.

The Wild West used to be a lawless territory, and those who risked their hides to pave the way for later generations came away with their share of the gold, just like social media marketing. Those companies that adopted it as a marketing channel early benefited from untold numbers of followers and all of the post impressions that came with them.

Unfortunately for those early adopters, the social media landscape has changed. Social media has quickly become a pay-to-play channel, which means that posting content in order to drive mass likes and website traffic typically requires you to pull out your wallet. Although we marketers are resilient and won’t give up on this fruitful channel, it’s important to realize that we need to change our priorities and the metrics we track. Now more than ever, we need to look to social media as a channel to engage with customers and build lasting relationships rather than one for cheap conversions.

The importance of social media engagement

Just because it’s more difficult than ever to get in front of your customers doesn’t mean your customers have the same problem getting in front of you. In fact, social media has made it easier than ever for customers to reach out to brands they need to interact. If your customers are trying to communicate with you on a channel, you must be there to engage, especially on social media.

Unlike other popular customer service channels, social media is incredibly public. That means every single time you ignore or mistreat a customer, it’s likely that other current or potential customers will see that interaction, so even one ignored tweet could mean the loss of several loyal customers.

Customer expectations vs. reality

We could croon over how important social media engagement is all day, but the truth is that everything up to this point has been hypothetical. The most important feedback comes from the actual consumers. Here are eight statistics taken from consumer surveys that illustrate the level of importance they place on social customer care.

  1. 42 percent of customers who reach out to brands on social expect a response within 60 minutes.
  2. After a positive customer experience, 69 percent of Americans would recommend that company to others.
  3. After a poor customer-service experience, 26 percent of consumers post a negative comment on a social networking site.
  4. Failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15 percent increase in churn rate. It’s clear that customers are turning to social media for customer service, and that both positive and negative experiences can have deeper implications, but is that clear to the brands active on social media? It doesn’t seem like it.
  5. The number of messages sent to brands that require a response has increased 110 percent in the past year.
  6. Brand response times to the messages that require response has increased by 4 percent in the past year.
  7. Brand response rates to the messages that require response have decreased by 2.5 percent in the past year.
  8. There is a lack of focus on engagement, and brands are creating four times more posts than replies.

Engagement rates by industry

More than ever, brands have the opportunity to develop a competitive advantage by providing better customer service than their industry counterparts. The chart below showcases how each industry stacks up in terms of inbound customer engagement.

SproutSocialBrandEngagementIndex

Pair that with this chart showing how often brands in that industry are simply posting new content rather than engaging with inbound messages.

SproutSocialAvgMessagesSentReplies

Outperform your competition

If the inbound messages just keep rolling in and you need some help managing all of that engagement, check out these three tips.

  • Get your team on social: With so many customers reaching out to you at once, it can be easy to fall a bit behind. One of the best ways to keep up with your messages is to get the other teams within your company to adopt social. They can then help you respond to customers, and may even have more insights into queries you don’t. Your human-resources team can respond to questions about job openings. Your research-and-development team can navigate conversations about new products or services. Your sales team can jump into conversations with customers ready to buy. Your finance team can deal with issues resulting from improper billing.
  • Create an internal frequently asked questions document: It’s important to never automate your responses. If customers notice that they’re getting a canned response, they can get upset, and it typically makes for a pretty poor user experience. Instead of recycling your former tweets, think about creating an internal FAQ document to help speed up your response speed.
  • Use a social engagement tool: Try a social media management tool that makes it easy to engage with all of your customers.

Michael Patterson is a digital marketing specialist at Sprout Social, a social media management platform for business.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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