When will social media become the new email?


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A post I wrote about the power of social media in relation to customer service (you can find it here) was recently tweeted and commented on by one of my Twitter followers @tomswift. In that post I talk about the power of social media in affecting the reputation of companies with potential customers. With social media, disgruntled customers now have huge megaphones with which to broadcast their discontent, so companies should beware, and be aware of their social media reputations.

Still, today when responding to @tomswift’s tweet, I found myself wondering aloud about how long social media will have such power. Will there be a point at which there are so many people saying so much about a company that individual issues will go unserviced, perhaps even unheard–as now is often the case with overloaded email boxes?

I know that today, if I were to send an email to the company I was wanting to address my customer service complaint (if I could even find an email address of a real person), the likelihood of someone actually having the power to address my concern and then actually doing something is very small…because there are too many email and customer service agents are often unempowered.

Right now, hiring social media managers is all the rage. Right now, companies realize the importance of social media to their reputations…but at what point does one person’s broadcasted complaint via twitter stop getting the attention that it currently does? At what point will it take a larger number of similar complaints before a company responds? Is social media getting more attention because it is the newest form of customer communication? While the email and phone complaints are not any less important, they often don’t garner the same level of attention…and one must consider the question: at what point will social media complaints become similar?

One could argue that the very medium of social technology changes the dynamic and therefore companies will continue to address social media comments and concerns. After all, social media is about community and engaging with customers, having conversations with them, right? But aren’t phones conducive to conversations? Didn’t we used to have conversations (or sometimes still do) via email threads? For all of those involved in social media, consider the question…and then, I would love to know your thoughts. Or if you don’t want to comment, feel free to take the quickpoll: click poll.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrienne Corn
Adrienne founded VENTUS, a career education, development and research company that provides career pathing for individuals, career education for organizations and industry research. Adrienne is also completing a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in leadership and organizational behavior. Prior to her doctoral work, Adrienne was a member of the executive management teams in the areas of marketing and sales in both IT and Healthcare before starting VENTUS. Adrienne's social media profile can be found at www.xeesm.com/adriennecorn


  1. I think the simple answer is that the point of social media in your example is to get the attention of a company in order to (hopefully) spur them to improve their service levels — a sort of “rising tide lifts all boats” approach. Think of one guy standing on a corner with a sign, ranting about a cause. He is regarded as a kook. Now picture 5,000 people on the same corner, same cause–that is a protest and will make the evening news.

  2. Email is technically speaking an open protocol that allows everybody to reach everybody else – with our without their permission. Ever more complicated spam filter fight against ever more complex email marketing tricks to circumvent the spam filter. And the difficulty is that what is spam to one is a very valuable information to somebody else. Email was great in the 90’s but is simply and slowly going away over time. Telegram was great, Telex was great, Fax was great, email was great…

    Social Media on the other hand has an inherited mechanism of reciprocity. With the exception of Twitter and we see the spam problem already – again, all other networks provide the opportunity to only receive information from people they are connected with. That means it is in everybody’s hand to use the media as they chose and not as somebody else decides to inform. The risk of-course is that people don’t know how to deal with it but that is a general risk of everything we do and everything we have.

    I shut down my personal email in 2010 and only rarely use my business email for those cases where I have to send an attachment or with people who simply still prefer email. But my daily communication stream is approximately 1:50 – email:social media.



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