Pace Salsa social media meltdown last weekend? As we now know, it was a hoax.
Or maybe last weekend you cheered on Elan Gale as he gave an arrogant airline passenger her comeuppance. That was a hoax, too.
Or maybe your friends tweeted and retweeted that amazing photo of a python that ingested the guy unlucky enough to fall asleep near the snake. Yep, another hoax.
We are awash in hoaxes. Perhaps that is nothing new, but nowadays the spread of hoaxes has been supercharged by the network power of social media. What used to be a rumor spread from one individual to the next in the physical world can today reach the world's online population in seven degrees of social networking separation.
Sometimes the hoaxes passed around social media are just for laughs; other times, they are cruel and dangerous. In the wake of actor Paul Walker's death, some fans "liked" a Facebook page started by the star's daughter, Meadow Walker, which, inevitably, was revealed to be fake. And yesterday, a Kentucky high school emptied over fake threats shared through social media.
Some brands have gotten into the hoax game, mistaking a momentary bump in retweets for some sort of deeper brand benefit. Chipotle, a brand that otherwise strives for meaningful social engagement about the quality of food, for some reason thought it would a good idea to fake a social media account hack. The stunt worked to elevate word of mouth briefly, but how does it help a brand dedicated to improving the authenticity of food to be so inauthentic in social media?
Not to be left out, traditional media has been sucked into the game of hype and hoax. As social media enables information to spread faster--regardless of whether it is true or verified--even "respectable" news outlets get caught as they attempt to out-Buzzfeed Buzzfeed. Two weeks ago, Time Magazine's web site featured an article about a guy who drives his pet bear around in a Lamborghini, but the photo, the article and everything else was simply another Reddit hoax. Of course, sometimes the news media's rush to match the speed of Internet rumor has more concerning ramifications, such as when innocent people were mistakenly identified as the Boston Marathon bombers.
My question is what all this means to communication in the social and mobile era. If consumers continue to gravitate to the sensational, web sites chase after attention and traffic as quickly as possible, and no on seems bothered by whether the most widely-shared information is even true or not, what suffers?
One casualty may be trust. If our world remains awash with news and information that is false, who do we trust? Our friends and social networks that spread the hoaxes? The news media that aids and abets the broadcast of misinformation? Should I give money to the young woman dying of cancer or try to win one of the 400 PlayStation 4s being given away on Facebook? Of course not--they're both hoaxes!
Remember when we use to speak of the importance of "authenticity" in the social era? Have we lost something in our rush for instant gratification, be it entertainment and distraction for the masses or traffic and attention for brands and media? And if something important is being lost, what is the solution?
Or, am I just an old fuddy-duddy worrying about truth in a world more interested in mourning Eddie Murphy. (Yes, that's yet another Twitter-fueled hoax.)
I'd appreciate your input in the comments below or on Twitter where I am @augieray.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
It may surprise you, but I am not a believer that the "customer is always right." Individuals can be wrong, sometimes. Each of us, at one time or another, has been an unreasonable customer demanding something that a brand could not and should not provide us.
However, while an individual customer may not always be right, once a significant portion of customers express the same expectation, the time for debate is past. The question stops being what is fair, reasonable or right and becomes how the company must change to meet those expectations. We are well past the time for deliberation with respect to social customer care.
There are plenty of studies that demonstrate what consumers expect from brands in social media when it comes to customer care. For example:
- In 2011, Oracle found that 46% of worldwide Internet users expect brands to furnish information and customer service through their Facebook pages.
- In 2012, American Express found that 17% of consumers have used social media at least once in the last year to obtain a customer service response, and of those who did, 83% have not completed an intended purchase because of a poor customer service experience. [Note: American Express is my employer.]
- A 2013 study by LiveOps found that 89% of consumers surveyed believe it is important to be able to communicate with companies by any channel, including social media, and still receive the same quality and efficiency of response.
- A 2012 Nielsen study found that one in three social media users say they prefer to use social media rather than the phone for customer service issues.
- In 2012, Edison Research found that 24% of US internet users 12+ who have contacted a brand in social media expect a reply within 30 minutes, regardless of when the contact was made.
- Finally, a new study by Lithium and Millward Brown reveals that, among those who engage with brands on Twitter, 53% expect a brand to respond to a tweet within an hour. That number jumps to 72% of consumers expecting a response if the tweet is a complaint about the brand or its products. The study also found that 38% of respondents said they felt more negative about a brand if the brand did not respond to a tweet in a timely manner, and 60% claimed they were more likely to take a negative action toward brands that did not respond to tweets in an acceptable time period.
The consumer has spoken! How are brands doing? Pretty darn poorly:
- The LiveOps study found that about 70% of complaints on Twitter and Facebook are ignored, and more than one-third of retailers have erased a customer's question from their Facebook page.
- A 2013 Ragan study revealed that around 70% of companies involve their marketing and/or PR departments in social media, while just 19% of firms involve their customer service department. That same study found that while 87% of companies engage in social media with a goal of raising brand awareness, only 38% do so to improve customer service.
- And a recent study out of the UK revealed that fewer than half of customers who have used social media to secure service are happy with the experience (but that was still better than satisfaction with the phone channel!)
Increasing numbers of customers expect brands will be available to furnish customer care in social media. That expectation is neither fair nor unfair; it simply is. One can debate the fair-mindedness of customer expectations until the cows come home, but it will not change the reality of the situation.
Some tasked with customer care question the reasonableness of consumers' response time expectations, but it is difficult to understand why that is. Corporate customer service centers have found a way to staff phone lines so that the average telephone hold time in 2013 is just 56 seconds, yet if that same customer tweets to a corporate social profile, an hour seems an unreasonable time to respond. (Shouldn't we thank consumers who turn to social channels for their service requests--they have given us the luxury of taking an hour to reply versus demanding we pick up the phone in 56 seconds?)
What many find so infuriating about the brands that struggle to furnish social media customer care is that many of these same companies have no difficulty staffing their social media marketing teams or spending increasing amounts of money on social media advertising. The recent Altimeter study found that companies are 75% more likely to have marketing staff dedicated to social media than customer service staff.
In the coming years, more consumers will turn to social media for customer service and their expectations for rapid response will only grow. Is that reasonable? Far more so than your brand expecting consumers to follow, engage and share its marketing in social media while the company ignores the same customers' questions, requests and feedback in the channel.