Social networks are defined by their immediacy. Within moments of sharing a thought or posing a question, someone — somewhere — will likely respond, facilitating the social networking experience for millions of people around the world.
But unlike email or even voice mail, the jury is still out on social media etiquette when it comes to how long is too long for a social media reply. This is the dilemma facing countless businesses today that are new to the likes of Twitter and Facebook.
If a customer lobs a public complaint, question, or praise, how long do you have to respond (in the same channel) before the customer in question grows incensed and begins hashtagging your company name along with a treasure trove of unkind words?
According to venerable research firm Gartner, this is a matter than businesses with a presence in social media must address for their own good — and soon.
Have you received a complaint about your product or service on Twitter? Have you not responded yet? If so, you may want to drop whatever you’re doing and make best use of the 140 characters at your disposal.
“The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers,” says Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “It’s crucial that organizations 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.”
So not only is it perilous for companies to let the social media train go by without hopping aboard, it is exceedingly more dangerous to lay dormant in the channel while customers — and even prospective customers — attempt to engage.
So what should be the standard operating procure in dealing with praise and punches through social media?
“We urge organizations to do three things. Firstly, participate—it’s important that organizations don’t let a fear of someone saying something bad about them stop them from participating in social media,” Rozwell advises. “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.”
But for matters that may not be in the best interest of your company to play out in full on Twitter, “generally the best practice is to acknowledge the issue on social media, but to move attempts to resolve the issue offline,” Rozwell concludes.