As social media becomes increasingly embedded in every aspect of our daily lives, it’s hardly surprising that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are finding new uses far beyond sharing photos and status updates. As companies and brands use social media to reach out to customers, consumers are also taking their “likes,” questions, comments and complaints directly to the businesses and organizations they interact with.
One unique example of this direct business-to-customer interaction is in the automotive industry. A four-year analysis of the public posts on the Facebook pages of the 10 largest automotive manufacturers in France shows that car owners increasingly use Facebook as a channel for their direct relations with manufacturers. Although 56% of all public comments are from car owners who love their vehicle and their brand, 27% ask for help. Some 72% of these help requests, which are rarely for an emergency but are often impatient, receive at least one response from the manufacturers but also from the Facebook community.
This analysis was part of a study conducted by Allianz Global Assistance, who has also previously studied how travelers use Twitter.
“For motorists, Facebook is a channel for interaction that accelerates the experiences they have with car manufacturers,” says Rémi Grenier, CEO of Allianz Global Assistance. “I think that one of the most interesting routes to explore is the use of possible new interactions to analyze and respond to assistance requests expressed online.”
Although in 2013 the number of public comments posted on manufacturers’ Facebook pages was modest (an average of 60 per month per page studied), this number had multiplied by 20 times in four years. Over the same period, the number of Facebook users in France multiplied by three – the volume of interactions between social media users and manufacturers has grown faster than the number of Facebook users. Undeniably, this new channel enables vehicle owners to establish a direct relationship with manufacturers.
Users of social media are seizing the new possibilities that Facebook offers to interact with manufacturers and ask for help: the study reveals that 27% of comments were requests for assistance. Many turn to the manufacturer’s Facebook page because they have not been able to find a satisfactory response to their question or problem elsewhere. They are also operating under the quite correct assumption that companies have strong interest in responding to customer’s queries in such a high-profile forum in order to avoid bad publicity.
In fact, 72% of assistance requests receive a response when they are posted on the manufacturer’s Facebook page. In 44% of cases, the manufacturer responds before the community does. In 25% of cases, Facebook community members respond first. The average time it takes the manufacturer to respond is 34 hours, while average response time of the Facebook community exceeds 50 hours.