Social media really do influence consumers… and how!


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There is growing and compelling evidence that social media influence what consumers think, feel and do.

Back in September 2009, Frank Sherlock of Convergys was reporting the results of a survey of 3000 US, Canadian and UK consumers to delegates at the Call Centre and Customer Management Expo in Birmingham, England. Frank made the point in his presentation entitled “Top ten things your customers want you to know” that customers want to deal with knowledgeable employees who can resolve their issues on the first contact.

It’ll come as little surprise to the CustomerThink community that FTR (first-time resolution) is a key to delivering superior customer service. However, he then went on to suggest that when things went wrong (i.e. not first-time resolution) most consumers were unwilling to complain directly to the service provider, but were much more likely to share their experience with members of their social networks. A massive 87 percent of survey respondents said they would quite happily share their bad service experiences with friends and colleagues. That’s nearly 9 out of every 10 unhappy customers passing on negative word-of-mouth.

In December 2009, Frank was back on the podium, still in the UK, but this time in London. This is where we learn more about the role of online social networks from a Convergys survey of 2000 British consumers. The Convergys data suggests that 1 in 3 unhappy consumers post their bad customer experiences on the Internet. This same research suggests that a negative review or comment on the Twitter, Facebook or YouTube sites can lose companies as many as 30 customers. A typical customer review on one of the sites reaches an average audience of 45 people, two-thirds of whom would avoid or completely stop doing business with a company they heard bad things about. In Frank’s words, negative posts have a “definitive measurable impact.” That is surely a worry for senior management, particularly if there are a massive number of eye-balls viewing negative comment. As I write this, 6.3 million people have viewed Dave Carroll’s YouTube song about his unhappy customer service experience with United Airlines!!

Deloitte’s contemporary annual holiday survey of 10000 US consumers suggests that “‘Tis the season for social media.” Seventeen percent of US consumers say they will use social media to assist in their 2009 holiday shopping. The majority (60 percent) will be looking for discounts and sales. More than half will also use these sites to research potential gift ideas (53 percent) and to view their friends and family members’ wish lists (52 percent). Forty-six percent will research product reviews and 30 percent plan to share their own wish list.

Social networks are clearly becoming progressively more important influences on consumer beliefs, attitudes and purchasing, for better or for worse. How should you respond? For further insight into what Twitter, Facebook, bebo, MySpace, flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube or the hundreds of other online social networks mean for your business, you can download a copy of my most recent book at

Francis Buttle
Dr. Francis Buttle founded the consultancy that bears his name back in 1979. He has over 40 years of international experience in consulting, training, researching, educating, and writing about a broad range of marketing and customer management matters. He is author of 15 books, has been a full professor of Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, Relationship Marketing, and Management.


  1. Do I trust these numbers? At best, 75% of the population goes online. About one-third of these are “active” Facebook users. Throw in non-redundant twitter and MySpace users and you probably get a total of about one-third of your customers use Social Media. If, according to the article “1 in 3 unhappy consumers post their bad customer experiences on the Internet” it means that all of your customers that use SM post their bad experiences there. Right, half or more of the people on-line post minimally or not at all. The rest of the numbers depend on modifiers such as “as many as.” Pardon me if I sprinkle more than a grain of salt on my keyboard now.

  2. Francis, I trust you are right. However like any report it is difficult to “read” what the “reporter” want’s to get across. Then there are always people who argue the numbers and the discussion can go for a year. I fully understand McDruid to take it with a grain of salt. But what should a company actually do?

    I just wrote a post here on Customer Think ( ) about that. I suggest don’t trust anybody, don’t guess but find out for yourself.

    All I can say – Go through the exercise, you will be surprised!



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