Striking a balance between promotion and customer service on social media


That’s ratio of promotional messages pushed out by brands on social media versus the number of times brands actually respond to customers, according to recent research by Sprout Social. Twenty-three promos for every customer communication. That’s a lot of spam — and not a lot of engagement.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that brands are ignoring their customers. It may be that customers aren’t using social media to contact brands when there’s a problem. But research conducted last year indicates that one-third of customers surveyed did not receive a response from brands when they reached out to the brands on social media.

Not engaging with customers can be dangerous for brands, as Sprout Social also found that 36 percent of customers “will publicly shame brands for not engaging and one in three will actually take their business to the brand’s competitor,” Marketing Dive reports.

Brands could remedy this situation, and reduce the risk of public shaming, by heeding these three suggestions from Sprout Social’s marketing VP Andrew Caravella, as told to Marketing Dive:

  • Cut back on the promotions. Of course, promotional material is integral to your brand strategy but it shouldn’t dominate. “Make sure you provide people with relevant responses before pummeling them with promos,” Caravella says.
  • Respond quickly to customers. On social media, customers expect a prompt response to their concerns. Caravella suggests keeping the response time in under four hours.
  • Get honest with ourselves and with our customers — be they students or prospective students, alumni, faculty or staff, or others. Are we capable of being truly “social” organizations? “Transparency is a topic that is sometimes taken for granted,” Marketing Dive’s David Kirkpatrick writes, “but in an age when consumers are hyper-informed and already fed up with advertising to the extent of deploying ad blockers, being transparent is important.” To which Caravella adds: “To be a truly social brand, you need to ask yourself some important questions: Why are we not responding? Is it bandwidth? Time? Or are we ill-equipped to handle the types of messages we’re receiving?”

For any of us who manage social media for our institutions, a bit of soul-searching could help us refine our social media efforts and better strike a balance between customer service and promotion.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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