Start-ups are being urged to rethink their social media strategy as a new report shows businesses are failing to respond to customer queries on Facebook and Twitter in a timely manner, if at all.
The report, titled Hype or Reality? Social media in Australian retail, was conducted by social media intelligence firm SR7. It’s based on a survey of 100 top-tier retail and service companies.
Of the companies surveyed, 87 have established official Facebook pages while 76 operate an official Twitter account.
The average number of Facebook fans among the companies surveyed is 27,355 and the average number of Twitter followers is 1,008.
The research recorded how long it took companies to respond to customer enquiries on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Gustaf Sorman-Nilsson, head of social media audit at SR7, says it’s surprising how many companies collect fans and followers, yet can’t respond to them in a timely manner, if at all.
Of the 87 companies with an established Facebook page, 59 (or 68%) responded to a customer enquiry made via their Facebook page.
On Twitter, only 19 (25%) of the 76 companies with Twitter profiles responded to an enquiry.
The majority of Facebook accounts responded within three hours of the customer service query being posted, but only a third of the 19 responses on Twitter were recorded within an hour.
Sorman-Nilsson says companies need to think less about numbers and more about interaction.
“We found that the number of fans or followers a brand has is an inappropriate measure of its level of engagement and success in social media,” he says.
“Brands are placing too much emphasis on the number of followers they have. The true return on investment is customer acquisition and retention, not fan and follower count.”
According to SR7, many retailers neglect social media for customer service “and thereby concede online influence, which their more active competitors can easily exploit”.
“This highlights a considerable opportunity for companies to better engage on social media as a way to better address customer service enquiries and gain a competitive advantage,” it said.
The news comes following findings from NAB – which, in association with data analytics firm Quantium, has launched the inaugural NAB Online Retail Sales Index – that online spending had increased in 2011.
The index tracks online retail spending across sectors, demographics, locations, and the breakdown of goods bought from domestic and international online retailers.
It recorded 29% growth in online spending in 2011, valuing online sales in Australia at $10.5 billion for the year. According to the index, online sales account for only 4.9% of retail spending.
The index also found that despite perceptions, almost three quarters of online sales were made with domestic retailers, while the remaining 27% were made with overseas online retailers.
However, the growth rate for international sales is higher, growing by 40% in 2011, while domestic sales grew by 25%.
“Whilst online sales are growing strongly, they make up only a small part of total retail sales,” NAB head of consumer sectors David Thorn says.
“Things to consider if retailers are making such a decision are the types of goods you sell, who buys your goods and where you are located.”