Three Forces Driving Social Customer Support

We’ve discussed, many times, the importance of the ongoing trend towards the integration of various communications forms in social media – the fact that you can’t just put “social” in a bubble and expect it to perform without support from other media. Awareness of this is slowly growing as social media activities mature within organizations

In the same vein, this maturity will soon manifest in increased integration between business functions. Chief among them will be a growing realization that customer support is a key communications function online.

Marketing and public relations departments have taken the spotlight for many people (setting aside the Dells, Comcasts and Zapposes (fine, whatever, you try pluralizing Zappos) of the world).

Over the next couple of years, as we continue to see companies invest more and more into social media activities, we’re going to see three forces driving the adoption of social customer support – case studies; customer demand and crises.

Force #1: Watching other companies succeed at social support

The Dells and Comcasts have set the bar high, but we’re seeing a proliferation of companies supporting customers effectively through social media.

Rogers (a client of mine in my last job) engaged over 20,000 times with customers through a variety of social channels last year, and is able to measure the results of this engagement.  Freshbooks has built an army of advocates through its personable and responsive support team.

There are many other examples, and companies will increasingly look to replicate that success.

Force #2: Consumers demanding social support

While public relations drove an initial wave of social media adoption, and while ad agencies are getting into the game too, their activities will continue to inadvertently shine a spotlight on the need for online support.


Because they’re using two-way channels. And when you’re using two-way channels, people talk back… not just about what you want to talk about, but about what they want to talk about.

Nestle found this out the hard way, as did Etsy late last year (BTW, Etsy, removing posts “for negativity” is not a good issues management strategy).

So, the more companies engage in two-way channels (even if they want them to be one-way), the more people will demand responsiveness and interaction from those companies.

Force #3: Increased frequency of online issues

The Etsy case is just one example of an issue that blew up online and escalated into traditional media. I continue to see more and more, which leads to the third force driving social support – the desire to avoid becoming a crisis communications case study.

By listening and responding to issues online, companies can nip those issues in the bud. It’s important to remember, though, that if you want your online support to help you avoid issues then (a) you can’t pick and choose which issues you respond to (although there are a variety of ways to avoid having to respond to each and every person 1:1 – more on this tomorrow) and (b) if you don’t fix issues that people identify then listening isn’t enough.

So, there you have it – three forces that are driving the adoption of social customer support. Do you agree? Do you see other forces also at play? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.