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More than a third of UK consumers (36%) have engaged with brands through social media, according to a survey from Fishburn Hedges.

This has doubled from 19% since August 2011 and equates to around 18m people.

The increased interaction appears to be driven by the widespread belief among respondents (40%) that social media improves customer service, compared to only 7% who feared it would harm service.

In fact 68% of those who have engaged with brands through social media believe that it “allowed them to find their voice.”

More than two-thirds (65%) also believe that it is a better way to communicate with companies than call centres.

And it isn’t a trend that is limited to younger generations.

More than a quarter of the 55+ age group had dealt with a brand on social media, rising to 49% of 18-24 year olds.

But while consumers may increasingly expect customer service through social media channels, it is difficult for brands to respond in the correct way.

For example, should brands respond to all tweets and Facebook posts, and how much resource should be committed to it?

In March we put together a social customer service best practice checklist, and blogged eight things to consider before you start.

Fishburn Hedges’ report also includes six basic guidelines for social media customer service:

  • Don’t be paralysed by uncertainty: where call centres arguably erect barriers between brands and customers, social media can remove them and bring proximity. It shouldn’t be a psychological straitjacket, so dive in – but clearly define your strategy first.
  • Don’t let social media define you: your brand must define it. It must be a continuation of a brand using the appropriate channels and not a knee-jerk reaction to following how others are using it.
  • Make more of the emotional insight you have: customer data offers insight into behaviour, but social media takes that to a different level, enabling brands to tap into emotions.
  • Pick your battles – but enter them fast: speed is critical in the real-time world of social media, but brands should not feel the pressure to answer every query put to them.
  • Address structural barriers in the business, not headcount: there are many ways to resource social, and new hires are not always necessary. Try sharing expertise and removing structural barriers first.
  • Fear not the #fail: No one is perfect and sometimes, just sometimes, it is simply a flash in the pan.
David Moth

Published 16 May, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Jamie

I've noticed this increase in the last 6 months. At VIVOBAREFOOT we use social media as a customer service tool.

It's great when people are happy and want to praise us but equally when they have had a poor experience, for whatever reason, it's not the end of the world. You can put a positive spin on it and do your upmost to help them going forward.

I think social media is good at putting companies on the spot and exposing whether they treat their customers as they should – We try!

about 4 years ago

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Danny Callan

It can only get better for businesses who are using social media to contact with their customers! This just proves to small and medium size businesses that being on social sites can effect your bottom line!

about 4 years ago

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Joakim Ditlev

Using social media in customer service also means being more open and willingness to risk taking direct hits in public. To some businesses that sounds really scary.

But customers will talk about companies online - for good or for worse. The good news is that if you have an open approach and invite your customers to give you feedback most customers will really appreciate it.

I recently wrote about how to deal with online customer complaints - could be interesting:

http://blog.trustpilot.com/dealing-with-online-customer-complaints/

about 4 years ago

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Ellie Green

This blog is evidence that social media is very useful to everyone, not just businesses.

over 3 years ago

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