Consumers use social media to communicate with brands, and expect customer service to be available on those channels. A significant portion of users even prefers customer service through social networks instead over traditional methods.

The majority of social media users interact with brands in some way through social networks at least once a month, either to learn more about a brand, a product or a service (65%), express concerns or complaints about the brand or a service (50%), or compliment brands (53%). According to a Nielsen and NM Incite report called State of the Media: The Social Media Report of 2012, nearly half (47%) of social media users also use those networks to engage in “social care” – “customer service via social media.” Customers ask questions, share issues they encounter or voice their complaints on a variety of social networks.

Social media customers often want to connect via networks rather than via the phone...

According to the study, those new communication channels don’t only complement traditional ones; rather, they are slowly replacing them. Indeed, one in three social media users now prefer contacting brands through social channels rather than over the phone, and they do so rather regularly. The large majority (70%) of social care users use it monthly, 21% use it weekly, and 9% daily. Of course, usages vary among different age groups: only 17 percent of those over 65 preferring social to the phone, compared to 37 percent of 18 to 24 year olds, 35% of 25-34 years old, 31% of 35-44 years old, 26% of 45-55 years old, and 24% of 55-64 years old.

…and they post to many different channels that brands must monitor

Facebook brand pages and personal profiles are the most common forum for social care feedback, at 29 and 28 percent respectively. The company’s official blog is another common channel for social care access at 15 percent, and after that Twitter at 13 to 14 percent. YouTube is also a sizeable source of customer queries at 11 to 12 percent, and 11 percent of social media customers use other types of blogs to comment on or ask questions about a company’s products or services. This may change as customers connect to social media with different devices, but still the most popular way to connect are computers, though mobile devices are growing their presence in the category.