Corporate Eye

Fewer than Half of Companies Are Prepared for a Social Media Threat

twitter social mediaIs your company ready to respond to a social media threat that could damage your company and brand reputation? Surprisingly, research from eMarketer found that only 40% of corporate communications professionals believe their companies are prepared to respond to a social media-based threat effectively.

As if that’s not bad enough in 2012, only half of companies included in eMarketer’s research used social media to track and respond to consumer conversations and feedback.

First, take a look at the statistics related to the preferred method of sharing negative experiences about a brand or product according to U.S. internet users by age:

18-34 year olds

  • Social network such as Facebook or Twitter = 32%
  • Calling the company directly = 24%
  • Emailing friends, family and colleagues = 21%
  • Third-party site such as Consumer Reports or CNET = 19%
  • Other = 4%

47-65 year olds

  • Social network such as Facebook or Twitter = 9%
  • Calling the company directly = 42%
  • Emailing friends, family and colleagues = 23%
  • Third-party site such as Consumer Reports or CNET = 20%
  • Other = 6%

Clearly, if your target audience is 18-34 year olds, your brand needs to be spending time in the social media space both tracking conversations and engaging consumers.

Now, take a look at the top 5 reasons U.S. internet users use social media for customer service (all ages):

  • Seeking an actual response from a company about a service issue = 50%
  • Praising a company for great service = 48%
  • Sharing information about a service with a wider audience = 47%
  • Venting frustration about poor service = 46%
  • Asking other users how to get better service = 43%

Based on those numbers, consumers are saying positive and negative things about brands via social media, and they expect answers from companies. Those conversations also affect companies’ bottom-lines because they can have a direct influence on buying decisions.

The content and conversations published via social media has a direct effect on consumer purchase decisions as follows:

  • “Positive information I’ve read online has reinforced my decision to purchase a product or service recommended to me” = 87% (up from 80% a year earlier)
  • “Negative information I’ve read online has made me change my mind about purchasing a product or service recommended to me” = 80% (up from 68% a year earlier)

Despite the fact that social media content and conversations are directly affecting consumers’ satisfaction with brands and companies as well as buying decisions, the majority of companies are not involved in social media enough.

According to the eMarketer study, preparedness of companies to deal with a social media-based threat is surprisingly low:

  • Prepared = 40% (up from 33% a year earlier)
  • Not Prepared = 30% (down from 33% a year earlier)
  • Neither Prepared Nor Unprepared = 29% (down from 34% a year earlier)

Consumers have been talking about brands and venting frustrations for years via the social web. The fact that so many companies are unprepared to respond to social media-based threats and that so many aren’t even effectively tracking and participating in social media conversations is shocking. These conversations certainly aren’t going to stop. What are the waiting for?

An infographic from Larry Buchanan was published on Adweek, which displays the highlights from the study visually. Follow the preceding link to take a look.

Image: Bernard Goldbach

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Great post Susan. It’s a little alarming to see how few companies are prepared for a social media threat. A company’s online reputation can be destroyed a lot faster than it is built.

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