Most businesses are just starting to figure out how to get their feet wet with social media. From managing an attractive, trustworthy identity in social networking sites to getting their product and company information posted in social bookmarking sites, this part of a marketing campaign usually takes a back seat to what businesses consider the more immediate concerns, statistics like traffic, sales and conversions. But a new study shows that consumers are using social media more than ever to do research on a company and their reputation before buying, and businesses better start listening, responding and improving if they want to compete in a Web 2.0 marketplace.
The Society for New Communications Research (sncr.org) released the new study on April 22, 2008 entitled “Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media.” Among other things, the study indicates consumers use social media to share customer care experiences and research companies’ customer service reputations. More than 300 consumers who are active online were interviewed for the study, focusing on how customer care influences brand reputation with social media. Some of the most interesting findings of the study include:
- Over 59% of consumers use social media to “vent” about a customer care experience
- Over 72% of respondents research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products or services
- 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer care experiences shared online
- 81% believe that blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care
The complete study is available here.
“This study indicates that there is a growing group of highly desirable consumers using social media to research companies: 25- to 55-years old, college-educated, earning $100,000+ – a very powerful group in terms of buying behavior,” said Dr. Ganim Nora Barnes, senior fellow over at SNCR. “These most savvy and sought after consumers will not support companies with poor customer care reputations, and they will talk about all of this openly with others via multiple online vehicles. This research should serve as a wake-up call to companies…”
With studies like this showing the power that a credible online reputation holds, it’s obvious companies need to have effective tools to manage their online identity and company brand. More and more, with so many choices available online, company reputation and online credibility are becoming the most important factor when it comes to a buying decision for e-commerce consumers. With the growing transparency of company records and availability of reviews on everything from customer service to product quality, it’s unrealistic to think an e-commerce business can survive, much less thrive without having an effective, consistent presence in Web 2.0 and social media.
The question is, what is your business doing to satisfy these new, savvy web consumers?