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At a recent industry event, marketers from both B2B and B2C brands were in heated discussions about the complexity and sheer volume of social media traffic they needed to deal with. Service and support issues were far and away the biggest topic. The social marketers all fear missing that one Facebook post or Tweet that can escalate into a viral nightmare and damage the value of their brands. These are legitimate concerns made more difficult by the varying ability of automated listening systems and platforms to sift through everything picked up in the cloud. Add to that the need for overworked staff to be on top of all this data and you can see the potential for disaster. All of these brands have significant traditional call centers and add social teams to them as they can. Growing the social teams to meet the demand as customer ‘issues’ grow more social in nature is constrained by budgets and the ability to find qualified employees.

For many of these social marketers, it seems the joy of going to work each day is tempered by the fear of the lurking complaint that goes untended. And, that’s a shame since marketers by nature are an optimistic, ‘can do’ group of people. Adding to the pressure is the realization that not only do you need to recognize the issue but you need to respond—or at least acknowledge it—in increasingly faster response times. Long gone are the 24/36 hour windows. Achieving best in class status now means having at least one’ touch’ within four hours. Airlines, for example, have managed to narrow their response times to 30 minutes.


Accepted Best Practices for social customers include:

  • Meet your customers where they are
  • Know your customer before they contact you
  • Leverage a community of experts to help solve reoccurring, common issues
  • Reorganize and reward your customer to keep them engaged


So, how best to balance the need to find and ‘fix’ and also create value for the brand? Several of the marketers report that they look at the service issue as a unique opportunity to extend brand loyalty. Their research shows that their customers really appreciate being heard—even if a quick fix is not possible. They track the then positive social chatter as a measure of customer satisfaction and a way to maintain customer engagement.

What steps do you take to deal with the social torrent? Have any great examples of turning complaints into compliments?

Kevin Lynch
Kevin Lynch

The focus of Kevin’s 40+ year career has been on strategic counsel, alliance and partnership formation and business development.