You probably heard many cases of how social media can negatively influence companies, and how users ‘bragging’ on social media can become a catastrophe.

It’s not only companies, social media is also about influencing countries and their governments. It is absolutely clear, that during the past years, social media got people and corporations closer to each other then anything, it allowed us to communicate faster, communicate more effectively with each other.

Without social media, and of course online communication in general, we might now be aware of issues in some countries. Information in social media spreads extremely fast, and that really is a game changing thing, even for the internet. 

And for companies, companies have to rethink the way they communicate. For decades, consumers have been communicating with brands over mail or the telephone. There is one key problem to that: If you get a bad reply, the conversation is always closed. 

I have a great example that I heard by Earl Wilkinson from the International News Media Association (INMA), who said that initially, communication was like trees.

There was only a tree and communication was in mass to everyone (radio, TV, print), then, branches came along and we started to have different verticals (specific magazines, specific newspapers).

With online coming to the picture, leaves came to the tree, and information sources like blogs, little clips, articles, became quickly available. But with social media, the shift was completed, when the, as Earl put it, the “damn leaves started talking to each other”. 

For companies, that’s something of a very new thing. They have to be careful every day. Some companies pretty much get this now, but definitely not all have transferred to the social media shift.

One of the many examples could be British Airways, who have decided that it’s best to enter Facebook and quickly close the walls for user feedback (wall posts).

Now that’s the most arrogant thing a brand, especially a consumer brand, can do in social media. If you want to be social and enter social media, then be social and talk to your fans, have them ask questions, do customer care there if necessary.

At Socialbakers, our mission is to measure and analyze this social media shift. For example, we measure if companies respond in social media, and honestly, it’s a disaster.

Our studies say companies only respond to 5% of all their Wall questions on average, here is the breakdown by industry:

This chart clearly shows the sectors that get it a little more. Obviously some of these categories don’t need to have any major response rate, FMCG for example.

But all the Telecom, Services, Airlines and others should have a response rate between 65 and 75% to all user questions. That is being social. 

These stats echo the findings of an earlier study covered on this blog, which found that retailers were, in general, unresponsive on Facebook and Twitter