Gartner Predicts That Refusing to Communicate by Social Media Will Be as Harmful to Companies as Ignoring Phone Calls or Emails Is Today

Analysts to Explore the Risks and Benefits of Social Engagement, and How to Turn Information Into Insight

August 14, 2012

Analysts to Explore the Risks and Benefits of Social Engagement, and How to Turn Information Into Insight, at the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit 2012, 

19-20 September in London

As familiarity with social media grows, customers’ expectations about how organisations will use these channels are evolving, according to Gartner, Inc. By 2014, organisations that refuse to communicate with customers by social media will face the same level of wrath from customers as those that ignore today’s basic expectation that they will respond to emails and phone calls. For organisations that use social media to promote their products, responding to inquiries via social media channels will be the new minimum level of response expected.

“The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 per cent increase in churn rate for existing customers,” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “It’s crucial that organisations implement approaches to handling social media now. The effort involved in addressing social media commentary is not good cause to ignore relevant comments or solvable issues.”

However, not all comments on the social web are aimed directly at organisations. Gartner recommends that organisations develop a framework to deal with social media commentary on relevant topics. The framework must complement how an organisation deals with a direct enquiry received through social channels and should address whether a response is warranted, who should respond if it is, and what action is necessary following any response.

To respond or not?

Social media leaders must develop a process for deciding whether to respond to public or client-prompted social engagements. A person or team needs to have the power to decide whether a comment is relevant and whether the issue presented is solvable, or whether there are positive dimensions to what is being said that should be recorded.

It’s also important to accept that it’s impracticable and counterproductive to respond to everything. For example, if a comment is clearly inflammatory and unsolvable, it is usually best not to respond at all. However, if a person is an existing customer logging a harsh but legitimate complaint, the issue must be addressed publicly, promptly and within the same media it was made.

“Generally the best practice is to acknowledge the issue on social media, but to move attempts to resolve the issue offline,” said Ms Rozwell.

Who should respond?

Every organisation needs a set of rules to define who should deal with different kinds of comment, and a process for deciding how a response will be posted to social media. If no one has been identified to determine this set of rules, that is the first action to take. Then the designated social media leader or team must decide how to categorise comments. For example, some comments about a general issue may simply require monitoring and assessment before a general response is issued, whereas others may require an immediate and personal response and further monitoring.

It’s not enough simply to decide which people responds to what — the act of responding must be made part of their day job or it will be overlooked. It can be challenging to promote this shift in mindset, and it could require changes to performance metrics and job roles.

We’ve responded, now what?

Some organisations have implemented the first stages of a social media engagement process, but they make the mistake of treating engagements as ad hoc. While over half of organisations monitor social media, only 23 per cent collect and analyse data. This means that most organisations do not keep records of interactions occurring on social media and do not keep social profiles for people they have engaged with.

“It’s important not only to keep records of individual conversations, but constantly to analyse the interactions to see what insights can be gleaned from them,” said Ms Rozwell.

To ensure they are not discarding the valuable information being generated through social media, organisations must create processes for perpetuating customer engagements and for sharing social knowledge throughout the organisation. Developing a means for acting on social data will provide a competitive advantage by providing exceptional customer experience through increasingly significant social channels.

“We urge organisations to do three things. Firstly, participate — it’s important that organisations don’t let a fear of someone saying something bad about them stop them from participating in social media,” said Ms Rozwell. “Secondly, don’t assume all comments require the same level of attention — develop an appropriate response for the different types of interaction your business faces. Thirdly, plan for an increase in social commentary and adapt communications practices to cope — this will require changes to job descriptions, performance metrics and business processes.”

Ms Rozwell (http://twitter.com/CRozwell) will present on the risks and benefits of social engagement, and debut a social maturity model, at the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit 2012, taking place from 19 to 20 September in London. For more information about the Summit, please visit http://gartner.com/eu/pcc. To register for the Summit, the media can contact Rob van der Meulen on + 44 1784 26 7738 or at [email protected]. Information from the event will be shared on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Gartner_inc using #GartnerPCC.