Since the last World Cup, there has been a major shift in how consumers communicate with brands – moving away from private, anonymous, one-to-one channels to public, one-to-many two-way conversations. Brands have acknowledged this and are now using social differently; the social engagement model has evolved from just likes, retweets and shares to meaningful conversations between brands and consumers.

This shift has therefore caused a significant change in how brands have to communicate with their consumers, This is especially important when brands see the increase in volume of social customer service interactions that come with marketing campaign messages being pushed out on social media.

With this in mind, we took a look at five of the official World Cup sponsors, analyzing the level of social customer service they were offering in line with outbound marketing messaging–comparing to see what stage they are at in their social customer service journey.

Budweiser’s flat offering

Budweiser is running a number of campaigns relating to the World Cup–mainly in the form of competitions. In instances where an issue arises, however, customer queries are falling on deaf ears. This approach is usually indicative of a situation where social media is owned and managed by Marketing, with Customer Service having little input. The results is that they use social as an outbound channel only, with no one dedicated to responding to customer service issues raised.

This is even more evident on the Budweiser’s Facebook page, where customer queries are left completely unanswered for the world (quite literally) to see. Fundamentally, Budweiser has shown itself to be a brand in its social infancy by viewing social as a marketing tool only–but not engaging with consumer questions and queries.

Moy Park Chicken a surprise package

European poultry provider, Moy Park Chicken, is a great example of quality over quantity. With 3,403 followers on Twitter and 7,974 likes on Facebook, Moy Park Chicken is dwarfed in terms of volume by social accounts such as Budweiser who have millions of likes on Facebook alone.

Despite not being a brand normally associated with football or sports in general (it has a Brazilian parent company, explaining the decision to be a sponsor), we found that not only is it embracing the World Cup through humourous marketing engagement but also promptly answering any customer service queries.

Although a lot of deflection can be seen on Moy Park’s Facebook page, it is still encouraging that the brand has identified social as a valued customer service medium. Moy Park’s approach to social is indicative of a brand at stage two in the social customer service maturity, where social is still owned by the marketing department but there is a team of agents dedicated to customer service.

Educating the consumers the Yingli Solar way

Yingli Solar, who has had a long affiliation with football through their sponsorship of FC Bayern and U.S Soccer, is another good example of using social media at scale for customer service.

We can pressume that customer service issues for undelivered solar panels are low, if not nonexistent over social media. But what Yingli Solar has done well is use social media proactively to engage with consumers when they mention–or indirectly mention–them on social channels. Proactive engagement not only acts as an effective way to educate a global audience about your product, but also in this case the wider ethical issue of sustainable green energy. Paired with Yingli Solar marketing effort, supported by the hashtag #allunderonesun and through proactive engagement Yingli Solar is helping educate a community that wouldn’t necessarily be interested in green energy.

When put into context of our social customer service growth model, there is clear demonstration of social being marketing-owned with some engagement. This is where inbound volumes does not require the need for a dedicated team, but a solid understanding of the fundamentals of social customer service.

The overall picture

As you can see it is a mixed bag when it comes to balancing external marketing with inbound consumer engagement, with some companies doing better than others. What is interesting to see is the comparison between larger companies compared to, in this case, lesser known companies. This supports the idea that marketing still holds the power when it comes to social media at the majority of analyzed companies.

Creating a fully integrated customer service strategy

For many brands, social customer service is still an offshoot of marketing activities. However, consumer expectations for quick and quality customer service over social continues to increase. To meet expectations, social customer service must become a fundamental part of how companies approach social marketing; with a dedicated team of real social customer service agents, who have real ownership of their performance.

For our World Cup sponsors the business case for offering efficient social customer service is a clear one with very tangible benefits. With a well defined social customer service engagement strategy they would have been able have been able to deal with the increase in inbound volume efficiently and at scale. The only way to do this effectively, in my opinion, is for marketing to relinquish its hold on social media allowing customer service a seat at the table.

Conversocial recently commissioned a study with Forrester that reveals a lack of ownership and understanding of social media within organizations. Over half (67%) of companies interviewed believed that social customer service is growing in importance and is the most pressing short-term priority. However, only 33% of the social customer service solutions being used by those interviewed were actually selected by the customer service team, with the rest being obtained solely for marketing purposes.