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Many companies are under the impression that opinion about brands on Twitter is mostly negative, but a new survey conducted by Econsultancy (and supported by Toluna) shows evidence to the contrary.

The Twitter for Business Guide, published earlier this week, includes findings from consumer research, which indicates that a higher proportion of consumers have conveyed positive, rather than negative feedback on the social platform. 

The survey found that 26% of consumers say they have complained about a brand on Twitter compared to over half (58%) who have praised a brand on the site.

The findings contrast with research from Brandwatch's Customer Service Index, which indicates that the majority of tweets about brands are negative.

Brandwatch surveyed brands that are using Twitter for customer service, and used reputation-monitoring software to look at how customers were expressing their views and how brands responded.

The contrast in results is explained by a difference in the approach to the research and user perception about how they tweet. While the Brandwatch study analysed the volume of existing tweets using reputation monitoring software, Econsultancy's research looks at how consumers observe their experiences of giving feedback.

Consumers may perceive that they give more positive feedback, though the analysis of tweets actually suggests the opposite.

It is also arguable that complaints attract a lot more attention on Twitter than compliments. Dissenting voices on Twitter are amplified because tweets criticising brands are more likely be retweeted over messages expressing approval.

For brands, this often means that more time is needed to resolve complaints to avoid Twitter's network effect. Positive sentiments should be also encouraged and responded to, but in general, such comments will require less of a follow-up by the company involved. 

Positive commentary still has wide-reaching consequences for organisations, even though the impact may not immediately be seen on Twitter itself. Compliments about brands may translate into long-term offline benefits, such as the likelihood to recommend, the volume of offline word-of-mouth, and higher customer satisfaction.

Positive feedback is also a means for companies to benchmark the quality of their product or service. 

While the Brandwatch and Econsultancy studies may initially appear to be diametrically opposed, the reality is that consumers may be more likely to give positive feedback, although the volume of negative tweets is actually greater due to retweets and distribution through the Twitter network. 

Thinking about other customer service channels, customers will usually only phone the call centre or send an email to give try to resolve a complaint (such as a faulty product) or report a customer service issue.

On Twitter, however, sending a message is quick and can be done on the move via mobile devices and tablets, which means it is far easier for customers to praise brands or send them positive feedback directly to the company's Twitter account. 

First Direct is an example of a brand that actively encourages its customers to give feedback, whether on Twitter or elsewhere.

First Direct's Labs project (launched earlier this month) effectively outsources digital marketing to its users, allowing customers to test new services (such as the use of QR codes in banking), respond to polls, and suggest ideas for banking products and services (such as feedback on a mortgage comparison smartphone app). 

For companies on Twitter, benchmarking the volume of positive to negative tweets can be a good indicator of how the brand is performing, though how useful this is will depend on the nature of the product or service.

Companies need to encourage their followers to give feedback across as many channels as possible. And, of course, context and human interpretation is needed to make sense of the data. 

Image credit: Adapted from electricinca on Flickr

Aliya Zaidi

Published 15 August, 2011 by Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi is Research Manager at Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

50 more posts from this author

Comments (3)


UK Suppliers

I do agree with your statements that reply on twitter is more faster than mobile messaging or other messaging channels. It is also observed that the message directly receives by the actual user to whom you deliver the message without occurring of any error or problem.
Analysis is undoubtedly awesome and more information is provided in it by the author to make it more clear for readers. It is really differ than other communication, messaging or email channels. By the way nice post Aliya. May I come to know the source of information that you shared with us?

about 5 years ago


Guy Weston

I used to follow brands, then Twitter became unusable so I culled almost all of them, resulting in a better Twitter experience.

Choose your brands wisely!

about 5 years ago


Bryan Tookey

Interesting article. I helped author the brandwatch work and I think there is another reason for the differences - we ONLY looked at tweets that mentioned where BOTH the brand AND the phrase "customer services".

So our data is quite narrow and specific to the customer services aspect of a brand.

It is therefore possible that more people may compliment a brand than not, but when they use the term "customer services" (or variations thereof), they are more likely to be complaining. (Perhaps it is a bit like when I am telling off my children, I'll use their full names.)

about 5 years ago

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