"Social Falls Short on Customer Loyalty; Traditional Methods Encouraged"
That headline in a MediaPost story this week caught my eye. It flies in the face of all the hype we've been hearing about the wonders of social media.
The study, which surveyed 5,000 people in the U.S. and western Europe, found that only 18 percent of the respondents felt that their interaction with a large company or its brands via social media would encourage them to buy from that company again. The number slipped down to 15 percent for social media interaction with smaller businesses like local retailers.
The report says social media appears to be one of the least effective means of encouraging customer loyalty and other techniques that are more likely to resonate with consumers should get priority attention and budgeting from marketers and retailers. The other techniques mentioned include a home delivery option, control of channels and frequency of communications received from a company, and a choice of ways to contact the company with questions or problems.
With all the talk about how impactful social media can be when connecting consumers with a company or brand, the survey begs a few questions.
First, could the survey simply be wrong? Might the questions asked have been leading, tilting toward desired responses? The other question is who commissioned the survey and what might they have to gain from a particular set of findings?
Aha! That might be the problem with this survey. It was done for Pitney Bowes, whose mailing equipment products like postage meters are threatened by a reduction in pieces going via the U.S, mail as more promotional pieces and even billing is done electronically via email and other digital platforms.
"Sophisticated social media and Web interaction can be time-consuming and expensive and outcomes are difficult to measure," says the report.
So would our friends at Pitney Bowes have us stay locked into our old methods of interaction, and ignore or avoid new technology?
I think many marketers and their agencies are getting it right as they experiment with social media and other forms of digital communication, while looking for ways to measure and determine the ROI on the new opportunities that the Web afford us.
We also need to show a healthy skepticism when we see surveys, asking who conducted or who paid for the research, and what might they have to lose or gain by its findings?