No matter how seasoned a social media user you may be, there is still a certain level of glee that you feel after receiving a direct reply from a company about a comment, compliment or complaint posted online. To feel listened to is a powerful emotion, one that makes us more loyal to the person or company listening. As a result, achieving corporate empathy toward customers should be among an organization’s top priorities.

New research now shows that the way a company responds to comments made on social media makes a difference to perceptions of the company. Maritz Research surveyed 1,015 UK-based consumers online to find out how they used social media to talk about customer experiences and what they expected from the relevant companies.

Why Users Share Feedback

When users share comment about customer experience via social media it isn’t necessarily to receive immediate reaction. Rather, Maritz found that it was to share credit, vent to family and friends and as a last resort. Interestingly, influencing the person’s network was significantly less of a driver.


In fact, most of those surveyed said that when they have a negative issue with a company, their first line of defense is to contact the company directly, whereas only 3% would complain only via social media instead of contacting the company. When something goes right, 63% of respondents would contact the company to let them know and 10% of them would only share the experience online.

These results combat the stereotype that social media users are trying to scam the system for free deals by spreading their dislike across social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook, among others. However, its research did show that younger consumers are venting more on social media than their older counterparts.

What Users Expect in Return

Users’ expectations are pretty low to begin with. When using social media to post praise or complaints, Maritz found that 51% didn’t expect a response from the company. However, when using traditional channels to complain, 77% do expect the company to read their comments. At the time of the survey, 85% who had commented online had never been contacted by the company.


And should they be contacted, what do they want? People are twice as likely to want an apology than financial compensation in response to their complaints online. Maritz found that the majority of people, across both sexes, want an acknowledgement from the company when they complain online -- which is not to say that a free offer or compensation wouldn’t be welcome.

What Companies Can Expect

According to the research, if a company listens to comments and gets in touch, this can have a significantly positive impact on consumer perception. Of the people who had received a response back from comments made in Social Media, 32% loved it.

Simply responding can make a significant difference to the consumer’s opinion of the brand, especially for younger consumers. Across everyone surveyed, 58% had a higher opinion of the company than before as a result of them responding. For those aged between 25-34, 71% had a higher opinion once contacted.

Responding also provides greater access to the customers for insight about other things and to build a better customer relationship. When asked if they would like it if the company was to contact them about anything else, 51% said that this would be ok.

For companies that are apprehensive about engaging with customers on social media -- snap out of it! Not being available online is a great risk to your brand and reputation. However, a company’s customer service should be present across channels, online and off. Social media won’t save your reputation if you’re not sincere and transparent, but it can help you retain customers and boost buyer loyalty.