Consumer watchdog fears impact of social media marketing

UK consumer watchdog Consumer Focus fears that consumers might become the victims of the increasing attention of businesses for social media marketing.

Several reports show that social media are one the main priorities of marketers for 2010.

Setting up conversations on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other social networking and micro-blogging platforms, and at the same time monitoring what is being said on these networks rank high in nearly all 2010 marketing outlooks.

A poll by email marketing service provider StrongMail showed that 59% of the surveyed businesses plan to invest more in social media marketing.

Consumer Focus warns that a majority of customers who still seek customer service by traditional channels such as the telephone or by letter risk being left behind in these increasingly digital times, the Telegraph reported a while ago.

The consumer watchdog could be partially right.

Although SaaS vendors, including, see social media (mainly Twitter) as a customer service tool a recent contact centre poll by Corizon showed that British consumers still see the phone as the most popular channel. It was selected by 75% of respondents, followed by email (70%), web self-service (43%), letter (31%), social media such as Twitter or Facebook (4%), fax (3%) and SMS (3%).

So it looks as if social media are not ranking high as customer service channels yet. The same poll found that 20% of the contact centres in the UK handled social media. See the discrepancy?

Another recent research, by Convergys, found that a negative review or comment by a frustrated customer on the Twitter, Facebook or YouTube web sites can lose companies as many as 30 other customers, the Telegraph writes.

It seems that businesses fear losing business if they don’t jump on the social media opportunity but if most customers still use traditional channels for customer service purposes, they might lose more customers if they forget the majority of their customers in their efforts to benefit from social media.