Customers Want Real People, Not Robots on Social Media


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Recent studies have shown that the world’s 100 largest companies get nearly six million combined mentions on Twitter every month. But are companies listening; and if they are, how are they responding?

According to a 2012 Satmetrix study, 55% of businesses currently ignore customer feedback provided over social media. Yet 59% of consumers responding to an Arnold Worldwide survey say they expect brands to respond to social media comments; and 46% say they respect brands that respond and contribute to discussions about the service their customers have received.

So why do many brands tune out customers on social media or offer automated, robotic posts and replies when consumers try to strike up a conversation? Social media is supposed to be social after all. The most recent high-profile example of automated disappointment comes from Progressive, best known for its lovable, empathetic and chatty spokesperson, FLO.

For every individual who reached out to Progressive through Twitter about the company’s actions surrounding a recent driving death court case, the company auto-replied with a TweetLonger-generated statement that read:

“This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they’ve had to endure. We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations. Again, this is a tragic situation, and we’re sorry for everything Mr. Fisher and his family have gone through.”

If this had been the reply to a single tweet, it certainly would have been respected, but as it appeared over and over and over again, the message lost all human sincerity.

So what are some takeaway lessons for brands and organizations that want to communicate more effectively with their customers, and consumers in general, on social media?

1. Get real. The following are some great ad hoc acronyms to follow when responding on behalf of any brand or organization.

  • Be S.O.C.I.A.L.: Sincere, Open, Collaborative, Interested, Authentic and Likeable
  • Success on T.W.I.T.T.E.R.: Thoughtful, Warm, Interested, Timely, Trustworthy, Engaged, Real

Even the robotic Mars Rover shines on Twitter, powered by the personality of its very human tweeter:

@MarsCuriosity Recalculating… I was so giddy about my 1st drive yestersol, I tweeted the wrong specs. Correction: 4.5 m fwd, 120º turn, then back

@MarsCuriosity Yes, I’ve got a laser beam attached to my head. I’m not ill tempered; I zapped a rock for science: #MSL #PewPew

2. Evaluate your automation. Automated content sharing is typical and tolerated, but responding to customers, initiating conversations and any posts related to an event should be handled with care, and if possible, in real-time. Read the example of the Worst Scheduled Tweet Timing Ever as a case in point.

3. Think before you tweet or delete. Before you hit the enter or submit button on behalf of your brand, re-read your tweet or social media post. Does it read well? Does it have a human touch? Is the tone polite? Could anything in the wording be misinterpreted or taken the wrong way? Taking a minute to rethink and revise your posts could save you hours of walking back your words.

In addition, resist the urge to reply hastily or delete consumer comments. Big brands like ChapStick have learned this the hard way. “Once you start removing content, people try to find it,” noted lawyer and author Brad Shear on

In a nutshell, communicating with customers and consumers on social media comes down to those traits we value in our personal relationships: trust, honesty, transparency and respect.

In 2008, consumer responses to the Edelman Trust Barometer gave the highest amount of trust to companies that had the highest quality product and service. Today, 83% say they trust companies who are transparent and honest, while quality of product is now third. People appreciate brands that are big enough to admit they’re human and show this on social media.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.


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