Social Media For Customer Support? Neat Idea, But I Don’t Know If Users Need It

I’ll be honest.

I’m not an early adopter.

I don’t buy any Mac product on the first revision.  It takes me a while to get excited about anything, and so I generally wait, and wait, and wait until jumping on any kind of bandwagon. I know Social Media’s been around for a while, but I’m not too hip on it being the encompassing need for any company’s customer service program. I don’t have to live on MacRumors and talk about all the latest cool stuff — I’d rather be in Vancouver eating and drinking.

Customers are generally divided into three groups:

  • Those that like your product (active users)
  • Those that have some kind of complaint (active, angry users)
  • Those that are ambivalent because they see your product as a tool to achieve a certain goal and not much else (passive users).

Certain customers move from one group to another, but the vast majority are are in those later two groups. Part of the reason they may complain about your product is that they don’t understand how to use it, or there’s something wrong with it, but that still makes them passive because once their issue has been resolved, they’ll stop complaining. They’re much different than the active users, who use the product even if it cuts off their hand or causes ear damage (read:  iPod).

I’m not going to quote any study because I don’t have any to refer to, and I also believe sometimes there are lies, lies, and damn statistics. I would reckon the number of users that actually care to interact with a company using social media is much lower than the numbers quoted from Cone at Church of the Customer Blog are much lower than some marketing wonk getting on the phone calling up people and asking, “So, wouldn’t it be cool if?”

And let me point this out: if you truly believe every survey out there, I’m going to point to the 2000 election exit polls — they had Gore winning by 10 percentage points.

(For disclosure purposes,  Cone is a strategy and communications agency with over 25 years experience building and maintaining trusted relationships between clients and stakeholders.)

Seriously, 25 percent of internet users interact with companies through social networks at least once a week? I can’t even keep up with my Facebook email, and I use the internet everyday.

Most of us just don’t have time to interact on 20 product sites because we have an iPod, a Sony Plasma TV, a Volkswagen Jetta, and use Titleist  golf clubs. Very few are so enthusiastic about a product that we search out places to talk about it, and more often than not, when we do that search, it’s because we’re angry, really angry.  

Sure, it makes for a great story if you’re consulting for a Fortune 500 firm, especially when spinning damn statistics, but it’s not necessarily the real picture.

I’ll do my own survey, and you can comment here:

  1. How many of you have an iPod?
  2. How many of you have found a message board or a comment area where you can talk about all these neat features the iPod should have, giving Apple feedback?

When I was a product manager, I researched these sites thoroughly, and found that the users were either: a) so excited about the service and suggested a bunch of useless features, or b) had a complaint. For every 10 ideas, there was a gem in there worth further explanation, but it’s not to be all end all of user research. And some of the best ideas came from users I had to reach out to.

Sometimes it’s what the users aren’t telling you that gives you the real picture.