Although consumers want brands to use social media as a two-way communication channel, the vast majority of businesses aren't adhering to those desires, according to a study from social media management software provider Sprout Social. On average, businesses send out 23 promotional messages for every one consumer response.
Social media is now the No. 1 way consumers interact with businesses. The research revealed that 34.5 percent of consumers turn to social media first when they have a problem, compared with just 16 percent who call and 5 percent who visit a store in person.
"People aren't asking for the world," the study's authors wrote. "They would simply like to hear back when they reach out to your brand."
Over the first three months of the year, Sprout Social found that businesses received an average of 957 messages that required a response, up 18 percent from the same time a year ago. Unfortunately, nearly 90 percent of the messages that need a response are ignored by businesses. The messages that are replied to, often aren't done in a timely fashion. The average time it takes brands to respond to a social media message is 10 hours. Most consumers, however, expect a response in less than four. [See Related Story: The Secret to Social Media Campaign Success: Get Engaged]
"People are clamoring for greater social engagement — with both their mouths and pocketbooks open — but brands are not moving fast enough," the study's authors wrote.
This disconnect is having a large negative impact on loyalty, customer retention and publicity, according to the research.
The study revealed that while 30 percent of consumers will switch to a competing brand if they don't get a response to their social media message, 65 percent have more brand loyalty when they do hear back.
"By listening and prioritizing customer care, you can even convert people into highly vocal brand advocates," the study's authors wrote. "In fact, 75 percent of people say they are more likely to post something positive about a brand that makes a meaningful connection with them on social, while 43 percent say they're more likely to actually make a purchase."
Based on the results, the researchers believe businesses need to develop a better strategy for communicating with their social media consumers.
"Outline a plan for tackling the onslaught," the study's authors wrote. "Also, be sure to speak with a unified voice that still empowers each agent to show some personality."
The study was based on data from 247,000 public social profiles (93,000 Facebook; 114,000 Twitter; 40,000 Instagram) of continually active accounts between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. More than 2.9 billion messages sent and received during that time were analyzed for the research.