Thank You Social Media!

Thank You Social Media!

Thank You Social Media!

The adoption of social networks as a primary means of communication, particularly among students, continues to accelerate. 78% of the respondents in a study by Conversocial predicted that social media would “either entirely replace other means of customer service or become the dominant method of consumer-to-corporation communications.” This is especially true among the tech-savvy student population. This trend has created a wonderful opportunity for college and university auxiliary services to predict issues, address service or quality problems and receive more honest feedback. By utilizing the right mix of tools and technologies, schools can stay ahead of the game and keep an ear to the student grapevine.

Predict Issues

Small problems become large problems when left unchecked over time. Thanks to the digital age, it is now easier than ever to identify problems while they are still small and manageable. Social media provides a steady stream of valuable data that can be used to predict trends. For example, Umea University in Sweden recently published a study that found a correlation between sentiment expressed on social media and prices on the NASDAQ. We’ve talked before about a “crisis of one,” or a situation where one student expresses negative sentiment and generates a lot of attention quickly.

While crises usually seem to occur all of a sudden, that’s rarely ever the case. Incidents involving strong negative sentiment on social media only happen after a continued pattern of negative feedback that goes unaddressed over an extended period of time. When students believe that no one is listening, they escalate their comments and turn up the volume. Your organization can nip this in the bud by responding in a proactive manner.

Address Problems Quickly

When a student complains online, you have an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. I have a personal example to share here; I recently had a bad experience at a restaurant. I sent the management an email and didn’t particularly expect to hear any response. To my surprise, I got an email back within five minutes. That changed my whole outlook on the situation. I could see that the restaurant was genuinely committed to making things right. I couldn’t help but feel differently about the situation; I was no longer upset. My case is no anomaly. According to NM Incite, “71% of consumers who experience a quick and effective brand response on social media are likely to recommend that brand to others, compared to just 19% of customers who do not receive a response.”

Receive More Honest Feedback

The anonymity of the internet has created a new dynamic when it comes to leaving customer feedback. The ability to hide behind a private wall has made people feel “safe” to express their unfiltered and brutally honest opinions. A 2013 New Yorker article discusses how many have debated the pros and cons of this effect. The author points out that online commentary has had a number of negative side effects as illustrated by the fact that Popular Science magazine banned comments from its forums. On the other hand, the article notes that “…anonymity has also been shown to encourage participation; by promoting a greater sense of community identity, users don’t have to worry about standing out individually.”

Regardless of what opinion you may have about the anonymity of the web, the fact is that students will find an outlet to vent their frustrations online. It is in the best interest of auxiliary service providers to stay informed about what is being said. While many negative comments online are untrue or exaggerated, you can still identify potential issues by watching patterns in comments that appear in cyberspace. You can decide what response is appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

The web and the widespread migration to mobile devices have changed the way the world communicates, and students are on the leading edge of the digital adoption curve. There is a gold mine of opportunity for organizations that embrace this trend and employ technology to listen actively to the conversation online. Thank you, social media!


Adam O’Donnell and John Roberts are Founders of Quantifize Solutions, Inc. and Buzz.Report. Their technology is focused on helping college food service providers increase student engagement.


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