Over the years, social media has become unavoidable in our daily lives, revolutionising how we communicate, share information, and connect. And, of course, this change doesn’t purely relate to ‘social activities’. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have transformed how news is consumed and shared, how businesses engage with customers, and how customers engage with each other. Our own research indicates we have certain favourites for certain activities, and choice of channel remains critical, as well as the trust we place in the information we receive. Given the ever-increasingly effective use of AI, this has become an even greater issue which is another topic in its own right!
In recent years there has been a surge in consumers using social platforms as de-facto review sites, turning to organisation’s social channels to share their experiences, provide feedback and raise complaints. Customers increasingly use such channels alongside traditional review sites such as Google Reviews and TripAdvisor to inform their purchasing decisions.
We have known for many years that word-of-mouth, referrals and recommendations from others have always been powerful drivers of buying behaviour. We have recently conducted polling to understand how customers use social media and review sites to gain confidence in a product or service and reassurance from existing (or previous) customers.
The results of our research – which we will publish in the coming weeks – suggest that many people prefer to use social media platforms or review sites to find out about companies rather than the company’s website. The primary reasons for doing so are to gain another opinion (42%), because the company’s website is not user-friendly (40%), to get a perspective from those who had already used the brand/product/service (36%).
In short, for those seeking social proof, social media and review sites provide a platform for customers to read and share unfiltered feedback in real-time.
Inevitably this presents both opportunities and challenges for organisations. Those providing an excellent customer experience are likely to meet the praise of customers on a public scale, boosting business reputation, attracting new customers, and fostering loyalty. Conversely, the impact of negative experiences can be greatly amplified, resulting in far-reaching implications for reputation and trust, and ultimately driving customers elsewhere. There is also increasing expectation around transparency and the ability to ‘police’ inappropriate content, identify fake news and counter cyber-security threats whilst ensuring we continue to allow free speech and appear open to feedback. I think the balance around this is critical and something we will come back to. It is also clear the employer must take their responsibilities to colleagues seriously who may be on the receiving end of less than polite reviews and messages!
Agile social media teams can help manage and respond to public complaints or bad reviews. Still, a far better long-term approach is putting the customer experience at the forefront and ensuring consistency of product quality and service delivery. This will have the greatest impact on customer loyalty and business performance – and if customers are satisfied enough to sing your praises on social media, humbly utilise the positive messages which will help build your brand in the future.