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A Leading source of news and resources from uk companies - Published each thursday at 10am

Social media demands a response NOW

While you were out your customers on Twitter and Facebook rang, and they want you to ring them NOW, or they’re moving on.

As the UK Twitter population hits 10 million and the UK Facebook population climbs over the 30 million mark, more and more businesses are turning to social media. However social media is a double-edged sword and unless you’re quick to react, it’s something that can harm as much as it can help.

Imagine this. You have just tweeted that you’re fed up with your favourite company because their products don’t work, and ding, up pops a tweet from someone at the company saying they’re “sorry that you’re having problems and will try to resolve the problem, if you want.” You graciously accept the offer; they take your customer details over the phone and say a customer representative will be along to help. Two days later you’re still waiting for the call centre to ring, and all your rage for the company has come flooding back, and if they do ever ring back, then you need to explain your problem all over again. You now hate the business even more.

The problem above is real, and it’s something that’s happening up and down the land, to all sorts of businesses. Social media like Twitter and Facebook sets a precedent with the customer for both response and attitude. Social media, demands a lightning quick response time of minutes, not hours, or days. Customers brought up on Twitter won’t be happy with a next-working-day response; they want a response on Twitter time, not email time, or call centre time.

The problem is particularly big in larger businesses – and this is where smaller agile businesses are really going to get an advantage - where there are set service level agreements, and where it’s hard to instil in to a workforce that the customer needs their problem solved NOW, not in 24 hours, 12 hours, or next working day.

There are also wider implications of not getting social media response times right. Social media is an open system, unlike a call centre or on email; you can’t hide failure on social media. A post by an unhappy customer on a company Facebook page needs a response, because not only does your unhappy customer see the post, but all of your legions of Facebook followers, and anyone who searches on Facebook will also see it. So your failure to respond is multiplied thousands of times over, and it’s never going to be forgotten, as the Internet has a long memory.

Don’t let this put you off social media. If it’s done right it can get your business new customers, it can help you keep in touch with your customers, and it can create a buzz, but unless the rest of your business understands social media, or you manage customer expectations from the start, you may as well rip up the Twitter account and the Facebook page now.

Marcus Austin

Marcus Austin

Marcus is an IT journalist and mobile and Internet consultant with over 30 years’ experience working and writing about using IT in businesses big and small. Marcus created the Guardian’s mobile strategy and managed the creation of their award-winning mobile website, and recently spent a year with MoreThan as a Web consultant. He currently edits TechRadar’s Business Centre web site, and his own website Business Mobile can be found at www.bmob.co.uk Marcus Tweets at @marcusa and can be contacted at marcus@bmob.co.uk

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