OPINION18 August 2014

Fans: the flipside


Modern fans can generate enormous value for brands, but companies must adopt a positive social strategy, not a defensive, reactive approach if they are to succeed in the age of social business, says Dr Laura Brooks.


According to a survey by Econsultancy, 49.5% of 18-24 year-olds have dealt with a brand through social media, as have 27.4% of the 55+ age group. Great customer experience acknowledges that this huge audience is not just using social media as a channel to vent frustrations. Research shows that increased customer loyalty and sales turnover are among the top four benefits experienced by businesses proactively engaging with customers via social media.

Unfortunately, in the age of social business, many brands simply don’t meet customers’ expectations when it comes to responding to positive or negative feedback on social media. It’s easy for businesses to feel overwhelmed by a flow of customer feedback but “to be or not to be social?” is no longer the question. Brands shouldn’t hesitate to respond to their customers on social channels through fear of negativity.

“A defensive, reactive approach to negative feedback has too often become engrained in place of a solid and positive social strategy”

I recently met with a mid-sized e-commerce company who up until this point has largely ignored social feedback because of its perception that active customers turn to social media because they’re “negative, angry people regardless.” In fact, this company has a large proportion of valuable, social promoters who are being overlooked. In doing so, the brand is missing out on increasing its fan base, boosting customer loyalty and generating more revenue, all through word-of-mouth.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, most companies who do invest time in their social media strategy do so in a defensive capacity, intercepting customer comments on an ad hoc basis. A defensive, reactive approach to negative feedback has too often become engrained in place of a solid and positive social strategy, and this reactionary model does not necessarily yield the increased customer devotion that some businesses expect.

Be human

A quick search online whisks you to hundreds of ‘top tricks and tips’ pages for dealing with customer complaints on social media but, in reality, there’s just one great tip: respond directly to the complaint in a human way. Replying to queries using everyday language that is relatable and understanding, while solving customer issues, is far more successful when it comes to dealing with complaints.

Strategies that ignore or, at best, defensively respond to negative customer feedback are not truly focussed on the modern customer. Great responsiveness alone has become the norm. Promoters and detractors both expect a degree of conversation from brands online – companies should not put themselves in the role of constant social listening without anticipating customer needs, and importantly, being proactive.

When any kind of fan recognises shared traits in others, they tend to group together creating connections and communities that brands can tap in to in what I like to call “the promotional spiral”. Net promoter score is just one initial way of identifying these fans, so let the search commence!

Dr. Laura Brooks is vice president of Innovation and Strategy at Satmetrix. She will be speaking on this subject at the annual Net Promoter Conference hosted at the Chelsea Football Club, London, from 10-11th September 2014.Research-live readers can receive a £300 discount on conference passes by entering the code ‘THREE’ when registering.