Why Brands Don’t Respond on Social Media

Companies recognize the opportunity that social media provides, but very few have mastered the art of responding during the moments that matter most.

Richard Dumas is the director of product and solutions marketing for cloud contact software leader, Five9. Richard is an experienced marketing leader who has successfully driven the rapid growth for companies including Nuance Communications, Apple Computer and Sun Microsystems.

If you’ve ever used social media to ask a question, look for information or vent your frustration about a product or service, you may have wondered why your post was met with silence. Maybe another consumer responded with a suggestion, but where was the brand that was the subject of your ire? Why didn’t they reach out to help solve your problem? Given that so many people now use social media to discuss products and services, why aren’t brands tripping over themselves to offer help?

Companies clearly recognize the marketing opportunity that social media provides, yet most seem to be focused on relentlessly posting messages touting the virtues of their products, while very few have mastered the art of responding during the moments that matter most to consumers. A study by evolve24, a Maritz Research company that specializes in social media analytics, found that approximately 70 percent of customer service complaints made on Twitter are ignored. And for those that do respond to social media posts, response times are slow. A 2013 study by eDigital Research reported that 80 percent of social media responses took an average of 12 hours. Compare that to an average phone wait time of just 56 seconds.

A February 2014 study that Five9 conducted with the International Customer Research Institute (ICMI) revealed that while more than 68 percent of businesses recognize social media as a necessary service channel, 60 percent of companies are not formally supporting social customer care.

There are many reasons that brands often fall mute at some of the most critical moments in their relationship with their customers and prospects. The following are some of the most prevalent:

They aren’t listening
Brands may listen to one social network or to their own brand pages, but miss many of the conversations happening on other sites and in other communities. A consumer may post a question on Twitter, but it’s just as likely that the discussion is taking place within a YouTube video’s comments section or in a blog post. In fact, 74 percent of respondents to the ICMI study said that the ability (or inability) to listen to social activity on multiple social networks, fan pages, communities, blogs and articles presented a major obstacle to providing social customer care.

They didn’t hear you
Even if the company is listening, its social media team may be flooded with posts and unable to sort through everything. Fifty-eight percent of respondents to the survey said that eliminating spam and other non-actionable posts from incoming feeds presents a significant challenge.

They can’t figure out if you are important
Yep, that’s right. You may find it to be shocking, but companies like to respond to their most valued customers first (and often those with the most influence or who are the most upset). But if they can’t determine which authors are important, they can’t figure out who to reply to first. To measure the value of a particular author, they need to be able to look up that person’s information in their CRM system, where they might find that  @person347 is one of their platinum customers, who by the way, has a contract that’s about to expire. Companies also need a mechanism for understanding @person347’s sentiment and overall influence over others on social media.  Seventy-three percent of companies responding to the ICMI survey said integrating social response with their CRM was a major obstacle, and 66 percent said prioritizing responses was a challenge.

They haven’t decided whose responsibility it is to respond
Is it marketing’s responsibility or perhaps the PR team’s job to reply? One of these teams may be working hard to respond, but doesn’t know how to answer sales, support or service questions. If they see something that requires a response from another department, they may forward it on a “catch as catch can” basis, but have no automated way to identify and route things to the right person. And even if the post finds its way to the right department, which individual is responsible for replying? Fifty-three percent of respondents to the ICMI survey said that routing posts to the right person was a major challenge.

They don’t now how to respond
Even if the organization has figured out who is responsible for responding and directs the request to the right person, that person often doesn’t know how to respond. Staff might not know what the approved response is or how to articulate it in 140 characters. They often can’t view the entire context of a discussion and don’t know if someone else has already replied. Sixty-three percent of respondents to the ICMI survey said arming agents with the right tools presents a huge challenge.

They don’t know how to track and give credit to the person or department who did a great job at following up
Organizations operate by establishing and tracking individual and team progress toward a set of defined objectives, often memorialized as key performance indicators or KPIs. If the appropriate person or group isn’t going to get credit for responding and following up… well you can guess what happens. Eighty percent of those surveyed by ICMI said that being able to report based on traditional KPIs was a major obstacle.

They don’t know how to convert opportunities into sales
Most brands don’t do a good job of using social media to discover new leads. They just aren’t set up to discover situations where consumers are asking for recommendations or voicing dissatisfaction with competing vendors. This means they can’t capitalize on them by alerting a sales rep to reach out.

As you can see, there are many steps along the path to delivering high quality social customer care, all presenting opportunities for your favorite brand to trip and stumble. So if you’ve ever wondered why they aren’t responding to your tweet, don’t take it personally. It probably isn’t about you and it probably is all about them.

The good news is that help is on the way in the form of better tools for social customer care. Tools can now help organizations filter, prioritize and route posts to the right person who can be equipped to resolve issues quickly and effectively. They also provide the ability to monitor; measure and aggregate performance statistics with other customer care channels like phone, email and chat.

These tools along with a formalized strategy for how and when to respond can help brands ensure that opportunities to build and nurture lasting customer relationships aren’t lost in the midst of an increasingly noisy social media landscape.