Social Media: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

This post is part of an eight-part series written by the Seattle Wunderman Network summer interns on the millennial generation. This series makes up a “Wish List” of marketing strategies and tactics Millennials want and expect from marketers and, more importantly, provides insight into the millennial mindset.

By, Katie Sells, Strategy and Insights Intern

It is not news to say that a brand needs a social presence. In fact, most have one. According to Social Media Today, 72 of the 75 industries represented in the Fortune 500 use Facebook and Twitter. Having a social presence is now considered a bare necessity and that presence can truly be game changing for a brand, especially when marketing to Millennials. However, there is a darker flip-side to the always-on, always-available functionality of social. Millennials are social connoisseurs and know that social is a direct line of communication to a brand. This can be used for good or for evil, and as a tech savvy generation, Millennials are well versed in both.

With their social presence, brands give Millennials the ability to be brand advocates. It is important to Millennials to be able to like, follow, or pin a brand because it is a point of interaction that is more personal and “insider” than a visit to a store. Maintaining that social presence is understandably a big task and isn’t something to be taken lightly. But, at the most basic level, all Millennials want is for brands to be present, so they can voluntarily call attention to a brand on Twitter when buying a new school laptop or signing up for a charity
walk. Millennials can do the work for a brand by socially advocating for them Millennials believe that interaction with a brand can lead to 15 seconds of fame or perhaps a new social connection will increase their personal network and wrap them into a community of fans.

If a brand’s social content is entertaining, interesting, and easy, Millennials will share it: no ask necessary. And, if a Millennial has a positive experience with a
brand, 25% are likely to share it. However, 65% will share a negative experience (source). This negative sharing and posting has transformed a brand’s social presence into a simultaneous customer service center, and brands need to
be aware of this.

Millennials hate picking up the phone for anything besides sending a text or checking Instagram. They are just not comfortable with direct communication where technology isn’t there to act as a middleman. The deadly combination of Millennial brand awareness and tech addiction means social media channels are a brand’s new 1-800 number. Millennials are more than comfortable reporting a bad experience or questioning a brand’s choices in the public sphere, and they can be merciless in this way. It’s not just that Millennials want to report a poor brand experience; they want a response too. In fact, the failure of a company to respond to a social media user can lead to a 15% increase in the brand’s churn rate (source). When I was flying out of London and my EasyJet bus service to the airport was late, their customer service line was unresponsive. So, I turned to Twitter to voice my complaint. This complaint was never addressed (through customer service or social), but at least I knew I could influence EasyJet’s brand perception within the Twittisphere for one moment in time by letting my followers know that EasyJet did not live up to my expectations. Millennials know that a complaint is more likely to be addressed when it is heard in the public sphere.

Other brands like REI and Old Spice excel at their social 1-800 abilities. Both companies reply to customers’ social inquiries or complaints directly using Twitter and YouTube. The Business to Community blog has a good explanation of “customer-service-aware social activity” and what brands can do about it.

Whether to promote a brand or diss it, Millennials use social media as their primary form of communication. Whether this communication is positive or negative, at least it is dialogue. The negative can be addressed instead of ruminating and causing an eventual loss in brand loyalty, and the positive can be rewarded, fostering brand loyalty. This duality is what makes social powerful and is one of the many justifications for a solid social presence.

One thought on “Social Media: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

  1. Phillip White

    I’m having a hard time picking out the bad and the ugly here. If public airing of dirty laundry is the worst to come from a platform, I’d say it’s mostly in the good. Forcing a brand’s hand toward responsive customer service may be uncomfortable immediately, but it’s in everyone’s best interest when handled correctly. That goes for brands, customers and agencies.


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