The Reaction Roadmap: How Brands Can Thrive in Social Media’s Call-Out Culture

Opinion: If you don’t respond to call-outs on social media, you will suffer the consequences

46 percent of consumers have called out a brand via social media
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Brands, let it be known: If you don’t respond to call-outs on social media, you will suffer the consequences.

Thanks to channels like Twitter and Facebook, brands can be a more active and important part of shoppers’ lives. And for the most part, the expanded volume and frequency of consumer-brand interactions is a great thing. However, increased communication opportunities come at a cost: Not everything consumers say online is positive.

From reactions to large-scale campaigns to shoppers sharing confusion around products, consumers have an impactful role in shaping the perception of a brand’s presence online.

Whether it’s a 140-character tweet or an hour-long rant, social media has given people the agency to call out the things that matter to them most, for better or worse—no topic, brand or individual is safe from the call-out culture.

Brand communications in a call-out culture

Brands will only continue to find it harder to escape negative online commentary in 2018. Already, 46 percent of consumers have called out a brand via social media. If your organization is currently operating without a social strategy that encompasses brand voice and how to effectively, quickly respond to consumers, now is the best time to give your strategy a second look.

55 percent of people call out brands on social simply to get a resolution or response, which means silence in response to a negative call-out isn’t an option. Recent research also finds that 35 percent of people would never buy a brand’s product or service again if they don’t get a response to an inquiry on social, demonstrating the connection between active communication and bottom-line metrics like revenue.

But unhelpful responses won’t cut it, either. A poorly worded response is actually worse than no response at all. About 50 percent of consumers say they’d never buy from a brand again after that brand responds poorly to their complaint. Upping the stakes, after a brand responds poorly, 41 percent of consumers would share that experience with their network online.

Today’s shoppers get information from many sources before purchase, but these findings showcase that word-of-mouth marketing still matters. 92 percent of 18- through 34-year-olds seek recommendations from friends and family before purchase, 10 percent higher than consumers overall. With this age group being of social media’s most active, the ties between a poor response and purchasing power are again hard to ignore.

Tips for thriving post-call-out

As social media continues to increase accountability between businesses and consumers, brands must prepare themselves for the next inevitable call-out.

While call-outs are traditionally a negative interaction, the silver lining is that they give brands an opportunity to reach out, create a positive interaction and build more authentic relationships with customers. To do so, brands should turn to consumers themselves as a roadmap for responding online.

In exploring what’s motivating consumers to call out brands on social media, stakeholders can develop and execute proven tactics like those below.

  • Be consistent: 70 percent of consumers hope to raise awareness among consumers when calling out a brand. With the power and platform to call out brands whenever and wherever, today’s consumers will settle for nothing less than dependable, quality content and service interactions across all touchpoints. Consider the fallout after one of 2017’s biggest brand scandals: United Airlines’ removal of a passenger from one of its flights. After forcibly removing one customer from a plane, United failed to promote a consistent narrative to guide its course for resolution. Instead of controlling the situation with a clear and apologetic message, United changed its response multiple times and placed blame on a number of parties. Consumers did not hesitate to call out United, with these inconsistencies further dragging out the ordeal.
  • Be honest: 60 percent of consumers call out brands because of dishonesty. Acknowledging and accepting responsibility for a mistake goes a long way in the public eye. Social media is a direct line to consumers, and brands should use the channel to be more transparent and available. Take Samsung, which was able to overcome negative press surrounding its faulty Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. Through a series of ads and other communications, Samsung transformed consumer callouts into opportunities to boost transparency and promote the increased safety of its new products. The company’s ownership of and reaction to the crisis was so comprehensive that Samsung earned its highest third-quarter profits in three years.
  • Prepare your team for success: 59 percent of consumers call out brands because of bad customer service. Customer service representatives play a crucial role in the age of social, but they are only as sophisticated as the training they’re provided with. Unresponsiveness and rudeness are top reasons behind shoppers turning to social media for call-outs, and additional training around Twitter and Facebook can ensure that teams are prepared to swiftly and effectively respond. Some brands are powering their interactions by combining automation and human agents, which is the responsible option for businesses handling a high volume of similar inquiries. Evernote, a popular note-taking application, is proof that automation, when mixed with a trained support team, both reduces stresses and improves performance. The company recently invested in scalable chat-bot technology, which has led to an 80 percent increase in customers helped on Twitter per week.

As these tips demonstrate, brands willing to invest in their social media presence have an opportunity to take back control of conversations online. People want to be heard, but what happens after that initial call-out is up to brands. Rather than viewing constant customer feedback as a liability, brands should view it as another opportunity where they can not only help customers, but edge out the competition.

Darryl Villacorta is social media manager at social media solutions provider Sprout Social.