What Makes a Social Media Response Effective?

Negative comments on social media can be very harmful to the reputation of a company and ultimately affect the bottom line. Hence, I would like to argue that as the use of social media increases, the need for companies to engage in social media with an adequately trained response team becomes increasingly important. Luckily more and more companies have been doing this, the question however remains is how to do this properly and effectively so it can ultimately add value to the business. One example of a company doing it right and striking the right tone is the Dutch airline company KLM. One of their passengers (Remco) posted the following message to KLM:

“Dear KLM, Thursday December 4th, I’ll be flying to Miami (flightnumber KL0623), I thought I would just let you know that this’ll be my birthday, just to give you the time for the proper arrangements (festoons, songs etc.) I’ll see you Thursday!!”


KLM responded: “Thanks for giving us a heads up Remco, our party department has been assigned to it directly. The first idea we came up with, if it is fine by you, is to change the flightnumber to KLRemco’s-Bday-flight. With respect to the songs: do you have any special requests? We’d like to wish you a good flight and we are honoured that you decided to celebrate your party with us!”

Source: https://www.facebook.com/KLM/posts/10152360848310773

Now that we have seen a good example of a social media response, the question remains, what are the characteristics of a good social media response policy?

In my opinion empathy is required in order to match the tone of the response with the tone of the person who initially wrote his question or complaint. When a mismatch occurs frustration might build with all its consequences. A client may become so angry that he uses Facebook or Twitter to publicly bash the company he or she is dealing with. As a result the company may face reputation damage.

Another aspect that I believe is important is timeliness. The social media response team should react to posts in a timely matter. Being too late to respond can also invoke negative responses with brand reputation damage as a potential consequence.

Furthermore, I believe effective communication is essential. The social media response team should be able to articulate their messages clearly and concise. Especially when using a medium like Twitter where the amount of characters is limited.

These are basically the characteristics I came up with, but I am curious towards your opinion and your contributions.


2 responses to “What Makes a Social Media Response Effective?”

  1. zachary27 says :

    Interesting post. I agree with you on the fact that the need for companies to engage in social media with an adequately trained response team becomes increasingly important. Especially considering response time, where more than 50% of the consumers expect a brand to answer their questions within a day. Due to bad customer service 78% of customers have abandoned a transaction and 89% of customers have reported that they’ve stopped doing business with these companies. The costs of bad costumer service are estimated at $338 billion worldwide. Also the cost of attracting a new costumer is 6-7 higher compared to keeping an existing one, which yet again shows the importance of a good social media policy.

    For more interesting facts on customer service: http://sproutsocial.com/insights/customer-service-response-time/

  2. 363112ws says :


    I was immediately attracted to your blog, due to the fact that I’ve seen the message as well on Facebook, and I found it quite the right and also a funny response.

    Nowadays, it is so easy to get in contact with firms. At first sight, this is a good thing. Firms are taken the social media serious and many customers use the social media services these firms provide to interact with these firms.

    But especially the last time some things strike my thoughts. Many people only use the social media for complaining with the larger firms. When you think about all the ‘funny’ people who are writing these messages, that also needs to be answered. It might eventually become a hell of a job in the feature to respond to all the social media interactions. Also, as the time passes by, maybe more kinds of social media platforms might come up. This makes the task of reaching and responding to the crowd more complex.

    But let’s go back to the fact that many people are using the social media to give negative comments. As Carole Billingsley (Billingsley, 2014) states there are various kinds of ways to respond to negative social media comment.
    – Ignore them: Sounds the worst thing someone can do to me. By providing the possibility to communicate trough social media, you need to answer it. Otherwise, it is highly possible that things go viral before you know and exposes bad publicity for you firm without any geographical boundaries.
    – Delete them: Doesn’t seem to be the right solution either. As Billingsley states, it will make the customer even more angry, and also a right excuse to ‘share’ his/her comment trough many other social media platforms.
    – Respond in kind: is the first step, but still the problem for the customer is not solved.
    – Place with a hollow apology: As many people say in Dutch: Voor sorry koop ik niks!. That means something like; you can say sorry but still my problem is not fixed and I want it to be solved. Also, often the apologies doen’t seem to be sincere, they just say sorry to end the conversation.
    – Offer an apology and a solution: Billingsley thinks that this is the only right thing to do. What I think is very good about her point, that she takes the brand image into consideration. People will respond to the brand on social media because they feel probably related to the brand. Reacting to social media complaints, is in fact the same as reacting to complaints in real life. You can’t ignore them and you have to find a solution together.

    Also Devany and Stein (Devany, Stein 2014), state that the first priority is to remain positive to the customer. Also, this happened to me with the KLM reaction, the firm can create respect by providing the right reaction to a comment, whether this is positive or negative that doesn’t matter. The best thing I think they adres in their article is that you have to ‘flip the script’. As a firm you must turn around the comment by highlighting your strengths as a firm instead of being defensive.

    So I think that there is a huge difference in responding on different kinds of posts. But I agree that there are some basics that have te be kept in mind by different firms on social media. I think that this provide a valuable addition to your points. What do you think, do you agree?

    Billingsley, C. (2012) http://www.seeksocialmedia.com/respond-negative-social-media-comments/, 13 october 2014

    Davenay, T. and Stein, T. (2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/sage/2014/03/03/handling-haters-how-to-respond-to-negative-online-reviews/, 13 october 2014

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