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Has Social Media Made You More Important to Companies?

Author: Megan Ellis
Date: 2017-06-09
While social media has its downfalls, it has given consumers much more power. How have these networks changed company accountability?
The dawn of social media meant that companies had a new front on which to promote their brand. But social networks differ from other platforms for brand promotion - as users can directly talk back. But consumers didn't only have questions and conversation in mind. They had found a way to publicly reach companies with their complaints and concerns. Is it possible that the increasing importance of social media has made brands more accountable to their customers? We spoke to BrandsEye, an online opinion mining company, to find out.

Social Media Put Control in Consumers' Hands

BrandsEye doesn't diminish the contributions social media has made to company accountability.
"Social media has revolutionised the way that companies engage with their consumers," BrandsEye told CompareGuru. "Gone are the days where the companies were the ones controlling the channels of communication – it is now the savvy consumers who drive the conversation."
The company says that this has created a power shift in favour of the public. Not only can people reach companies more easily, but they can share their grievances on a public platform. People also often prefer contacting companies via social media instead of traditional channels.
"At the end of the day, it is generally quicker than traditional customer service channels, leads to faster response times from the companies. Done well, it means you don’t need to spend 40 minutes waiting on the phone only to find out that you are not speaking to the right department," BrandsEye says.
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The Cost of Controversy

Sure, companies can always ignore complaints. But this usually comes with consequences when the issue gains enough traction. In fact, BrandsEye says that active engagement with consumers is an important element to a company's success. This becomes more crucial in light of controversy. The longer the company takes to address an issue, the angrier people become. Many issues that may have slipped under the radar have been brought to light via social media. Just recently, Pepsi was called out for trying to ride the wave of social movements. The company couldn't get away with using real social issues and insinuating that a can of Pepsi can solve them. United Airlines has also recently felt the scorn of the public as a video of staff dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight went viral. "Whether you like it or not, there is nowhere to hide with social media. Once you have posted something it is out there," BrandsEye says.
"A complaint that was previously isolated to one person, can quickly go viral, and move from just a small local conversation around a brand to a truly global one seen by millions of people."

Who is Doing It Right?

So if social media is so important to a brand's image, which companies are doing it right? BrandsEye has praised Capitec for their social media presence - highlighting them as an example to others.
"There are a lot of great companies out there, but if we had to choose one it would probably be Capitec Bank," BrandsEye says. "They have made amazing strides in the competitive South African retail banking market. This growth has been driven by various factors with innovation and excellent customer service being at the heart."
In a 2016 study, BrandsEye observed that Capitec has the most positive sentiment from South African banking customers.
"They are the most loved bank in South Africa based on social sentiment which has been driven by their customer-centric approach and light-hearted persona online."

What Mistakes Do Companies Make?

But not every brand has been so lucky. For every successful story, there are companies who have made very public belly flops. While controversy is what makes headlines, there are companies who consistently don't do a good job of engaging customer concerns. A more long-term measure of a company's social media success is response time combined with the nature of the conversations with customers.
"In today’s age of action, people expect a quick response, even if it is initially in the form of an automated response," BrandsEye says.
"From here consumers generally expect a tailored response from the specific department in question." BrandsEye adds that the slower the resolution of the query, the more of a problem it becomes for the brand's image.
"The longer a customer has to wait, the greater the risk of them highlighting their experience on a public platform such as Twitter or Facebook."
So while social media often criticised for its effects, it has also put new power into consumers' hands.

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