Gartner bangs drum for corporate social media skills development

Keyboard with a picture of a broken heart on it

Answering end user complaints on social networking sites will carry the same weight as responding to calls and emails by 2014, predicts IT market watcher Gartner.

The analyst house claims companies that refuse to use social media sites to interact with customers will be looked on as poorly as those that do not respond to emails and calls.

"For organisation that use social media to promote their products, responding to inquiries via social media channels will be the new minimum level of response expected," said Gartner in a statement.

Carol Rozwell, a Gartner vice president, said failing to respond to complaints could prompt some customers to seek out alternative providers.

"The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 per cent increase in churn rate for existing customers," she said.

"The effort involved in addressing social media commentary is not good cause to ignore relevant comments or solvable issues."

Gartner said companies should start preparing their social media strategies now, setting out which complaints are worth responding to and who should be responsible for answering them.

It would be "counterproductive to respond to everything", especially comments that are "inflammatory and unsolvable", explained Gartner.

"If an existing customer [is] logging a harsh but legitimate complaint, the issue must be addressed publicly, promptly and within the same media it was made," advised Gartner.

Meanwhile, Rozwell said companies could do a better job of collecting and analysing data about their brand on social networking sites, as many do not record who they have responded to online.

"It's important not only to keep records of individual conversations, but constantly to analyse the interactions to see what insights can be gleaned from them," said Rozwell.

However, Ed Macnair, chief executive of cloud security vendor SaaSID, said, with many CIOs blocking staff access to social media sites, Gartner's advice could fall on deaf ears.

"The real issue here is that CIOs don't yet know how to control browser-based applications in the workplace, so it's easier to block access than pick up the pieces after a damaging tweet or Facebook update," explained MacNair.

"If corporate security is extended to manage and audit use of social media applications, employees can get their information fix, while being aware of their responsibilities to their employer's brand."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.