Posted March 7, 2013 1:08 pm by with 1 comment

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As marketers and business people we can get a little ‘amped up’ about how much we can track customers and interact with them via social media. It only makes sense, right? If they are out there and they are on social media then they are open to be talked to by our company, right?

Maybe not. A study put together by J.D. Power & Associates on behalf of NetBase (and passed along by eMarketer) shows that about 2/3 of people surveyed think it’s only appropriate for a brand to connect with them if the interacted directly with them (on a Facebook page or Twitter account for example). There’s more. Take a look.

Attitudes Toward Interacting with Companies Online

40-60% of the respondents, depending on the age group, felt that consumers should be able to talk about a company online without a company listening in at all!

Of course, part of the problem here is that consumers assume far too much about privacy on the Internet that really doesn’t exist. If it’s public, it’s public. It’s really that simple. It goes to the cry of Google’s Eric Schmidt when he somewhat infamously stated that if you want privacy don’t be on the Internet.

So where should marketers draw the line? What good is social media if there is no desire from a customer for a brand or product to be social? It’s a difficult situation. The eMarketer article states

It’s important to remember that although most customers are on board with corporate social listening, significant numbers still view any kind of listening as invasive. According to the NetBase study, roughly 40% of consumers under 55 (and 54% of consumers over 55) agreed that “companies that listen online are intruding on customers.” Even many consumers that are comfortable with social listening in the abstract believe that some conversations should be kept private.

Is this kind of data just something that gets folks fired up over nothing? Are consumers even aware as to what degree their statements about brands and products are being tracked? Probably a lot less than many would assume.

As we move further along into the Internet space will there come a time where someone can truly opt-out of being directly contacted by anyone they haven’t Ok’d prior? Maybe we should all be rethinking social media ‘interactions’. Listening to the online space is now a business essential or basic and those not actively listening are foolish for not doing it. What might need to be assessed more thoroughly is how brands and product representatives respond based on the findings of these listening efforts.

To keep it simple, if you are nervous about ticking off a customer by looking too intrusive then you have to decide where the line is for your company and your brand. There is no industry standard here and likely there never will be. What is important though is to listen even if you are not inclined to respond directly to a customer for fear of ticking them off. Why? Their complaints could help you get better. Case closed.

In the digital business world of today what you don’t know could hurt you more than ever before and it’s on companies to be vigilant. Where you go after getting your data is up to you.

What are your limits? Do you have any? Do you fear upsetting customers with unsolicited Internet interactions? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

  • Scot D

    I believe consumers do want to be contacted via social media; whether they realize it or not. The problem is when you present a question that sounds creepy such as “Consumers should be able to talk about company products without them listening in” just sounds bad. If I, as a consumer, talk about a bad experience with a company I would be thrilled to receive an unexpected response from said company. It would immediately show concern about that experience (as long as they came across as sincere) and could turn a bad experience into a phenominal one.