Guest Posts, Social Business, Social Media Staffing and Operations

The Fallacy of Round the Clock Social Media

Guest post by Chris Hall an interactive content specialist at Off Madison Ave who specializes in writing for humans, not robots.

It’s 11PM and the world around you is getting ready for bed. As a mobile obsessive, you instinctually check your Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of your social media accounts while you brush your teeth, only to find that someone has interacted with your brand. The world stops – you must answer.

give the brand a breakThat’s the way my world has become at least, because in my mind brands don’t sleep. How could they? On Facebook for example, there are people awake at all hours of the night that may have a great questions, and the only way to provide the “human” experience that brands crave oh-so-much is to respond to them as if
they are talking to you directly – no matter when they happen to be communicating.

But how does this look to the other guy – the guy that is talking to your brand in the middle of the night? What your nighttime response does show is that your brand is willing to respond at all hours of the night, but is it really worth it?

Does Faster Matter?

Let’s say that this guy, who I’ll call Mr. X, is an average Facebook user. On a normal weekday he hops onto his page periodically and probably writes a couple pieces of content, probably in the form of posts or comments on other’s walls. Each of his posts probably gets 2-5 comments/likes, with 50% percent of those coming from his friend Joe who is inexplicably online 14 of the 17 hours that he is awake. Each time Mr. X receives a comment, there’s a little rush – a feeling of acceptance. And this feeling will be the same whether the comment is made that day or that week.

So let’s say that your “toothbrush response” gave Mr. X a slight feeling of brand satisfaction. He goes to bed thinking that your brand cares, but by morning life continues on like normal. He’ll go to work, eat some lunch and watch the seven YouTube videos that his friend Joe sends him on a daily basis. Looking back on the situation, do you think that Mr. X’s feeling about your brand would be any different if your response had come at 9AM rather than 11PM? Isn’t it likely that Joe’s feeling of brand satisfaction would be practically identical?

Give the Brand a Break

Brands are allowed to sleep. Obviously there are some brands that are exceptions to the rule, but the majority of brands out there should try to keep consistent hours… you know… to sleep and stuff. Keep alert in case of emergency, but when Mr. X asks a simple question, just let it go.

While social media is fast, consumers really can’t, and don’t, expect social media to answer any faster than an email or phone call would. What they want is real human interaction – and the only way to seem like a human is to act like one.

(Flickr image by Joi)
(Off Madison Ave is a Convince & Convert client)

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    That’s an interesting one. I’ve always come under the impression that users on social media do expect to receive quick response, especially on Twitter. Perhaps there is a distinct difference between mere interaction (e.g. likes, comments, retweets) and questions, like what you’ve suggested that determines the level of expectancy.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  2. TrishJones says

    It’s difficult especially when there are world time zone differences but, if someone is responding immediately to questions on social media sites, I would be inclined to think they have no discipline or, they have too much time on their hands and therefore, not enough work.

  3. says

    I do think the nature of the medium (not all social channels are equal) and the nature of the content have to determine the needed response. On Facebook, the example you use, I can absolutely see waiting until 9 AM to answer a question or “like” a users’ comment. On Twitter, however, I don’t think a day later is necessarily OK. If your customer base is worldwide, across many time zones, you’d better have someone “on” and responding during “normal waking hours” for those different time zones. If your brand is all local, then maybe even on Twitter you can do the next day thing… depending on the nature of the post. If it’s a “Wow, had dinner here tonight and loved it!” a RT and thank you tomorrow works. If its “Just left (your store) and Melissa at the counter was completely awful and I’ll never return, EVER!” you probably don’t want to leave that until tomorrow, even if it’s 8:00 PM.

  4. allenkristina says

    As you mention in the post, I think it all comes down to the brand in question and the general customer service strategy set in place.

    For instance, I could argue that a hotel should have someone monitoring and responding to social media -inclined guests all night. If someone is having a bad hotel experience and can’t sleep, so he gets up and Tweets about it, even a moved room and a comped night the next day won’t remove the bad memory. This is something that has to be nipped in the bud right away.

    However, it seems unreasonable that taking to Twitter would be the first course of action for someone having a bad night at a hotel. First, he would probably call down to the front desk and explain the situation. The front desk should take care of this right away. If the problem is persistent, significant or unfixable the person should be moved right away. The issue should never be escalated to social media in the middle of the night expect to say “The @hotelname just saved my night. Great #custserv.”

    In my opinion, a 24-hour social media person isn’t necessary for 24-hour brands, a solid customer service plan with a course of action for quickly correcting any issues for customers is what is needed – no matter what the channel.

  5. says

    Just saw a post the other day on DevelopSocially about the effects of social media on your real-life relationships -> Your post reminded me of this becauyse we somtimes forget to ‘put it down’, return to life and respond at an appropriate time. Why the obessesion with answering? Ever receive an email during the evening and you just have to respond? Is it to show you are dedicated? If so, why do we need to email at midnight to show a commitment to our companies, our brands and our customers? I love your final point about being human because we dont think about this and the technology that has made things so much easier to be accessible has seriously handicapped our ability to think this way. My last company told us ‘since you have a smartphone, a laptop and an iPad, you should always be accessible’. Hmmm, yes I agree to a certain extent but really? If you must be round the clock available due to global presence or customer support, then take shifts and create a plan so that you can take turns being accessible and being human.

  6. says

    I rarely disagree with articles from Jay and his gust posters. But I think this one misses the mark on so many levels.

    1) Exceed customers’ expectations and they are more likely to remember you. No one talks about average customer experience they receive. They usually don’t even remember it. But when you give exceptional service it will make in imprint in their brain. A 9 hour delayed response is not exceptional.

    2) The hotel example below is perfect. There is huge opportunity to instantly solve a problem. Take advantage.

    3) Responding to social media chatter within minutes all hours of the day is not the norm…yet. But how upset are you when you call a call center and you hear “call back during our regular business hours” or get put on hold for 5 minutes? Why do we think it’s OK to treat social media or email responses any differently than we treat our phone customers?

  7. teriel says

    A consistent issue with my own clients has always been the time factor with social media and I tell them that what they really need to do is just be consistent about being on social media. They don’t need to be on all the time, but they need to schedule consistent time. Your post illustrates why that’s a good idea. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hallie495 says

    @bangpowcrash great post this morning! Bold…I like it…almost as much as I like sleep. cc: @jaybaer Also, go give @apierno a high five.

  9. troydarling says

    True. At the very least, you should never set an standard you can’t afford to maintain forever. Once you teach followers that you’ll respond at midnight, you better be available at midnight forever, or create processes that create that effect. Better to stick to what’s deliverable and consistent as others have noted.

  10. says

    Social media is there to give the brand a more human feel. But when the brand responds in less than a minute to your post it gives it more of a robotic feel. A system just trained to look for posts. Your best friend can write you back 12 hours later and you still are best friends with them. No harm done.

  11. Narciso17 says

    I can kinda see both sides of the coin on this one – everyone who’s involved with Social Media (on a deep level) has the kind of personality that *quick to respond* and very customer-service oriented…much to our own personal dismay it seems (or is it just me?). There is some merit to being ‘on the ball’ with responses; however, if it gets in the way of living your life, that can’t be good, right…?…but then again, people like it when there’s a *personal* touch in a response vs a generic one….


    Ultimately, I like this piece b/c it’s a good wake up call to making sure that you don’t ‘become the job’ – you ultimately lose sight of what makes you so special and regurgitate info as it comes in…keep sight of what makes you so special…you have a life, you have some foibles, movies you like, volunteer work to do, etc.

    Get to Rounding Out Why Your Employers Hired You…They Hired a Person, Not a Drone.

    Much Love,

    Narciso Tovar

    Big Noise Communications


  12. nancypjohnson says

    I managed social media and websites and helped with public relations and marketing for a healthcare system. All of that meant some severely long days, including full responsibility for around the clock social media. And yes, I did respond promptly. I was laid off yesterday.

  13. JoshChiles says

    I do not agree. Sometimes people visit a brands page and leave a comment because it’s after normal business hours and they need help or have a question. So, they call, no answer. They go to the brands Facebook page to leave a comment in hopes that someone will answer. Now, when they get an answer, after hours, they will remember that brand because they are there, listening and care. That sets the brand apart from the others who only respond to Facebook comments during normal business hours.

    Plus, the average Facebook user is at work during normal business hours and may not be allowed to visit Facebook during that time. The only time they can visit Facebook and engage a brand is after normal business hours. So if we take you advice, we will never be seen as above average in that consumers eyes or will never be able to engage directly in real-time with that user.

    We monitor our clients social media profiles 24/7 and never miss a comment. Here’s what I’ve learned, 70% of the engagement on our clients pages happens after normal business hours.

  14. says

    Managing customers’ expectations is the key to not being online 24/7. If people know that you are monitoring their messages and will respond in a given time, issues are rare. But, if your responses are inconsistent and appear day and night, missing some creates problems. Creating a FAQ page that specifies when you are online and following your guidelines solves the 24/7 problem.

    As @allenkristina noted, the need varies by industry. Businesses known for 24/7 service need to provide it online as well. The challenge for most is that their social presence is managed by a normal business hours marketing group instead of the 24/7 customer care team. If companies segmented their participation by having marketing do the marketing posts and customer care responding to the customers, it would eliminate the challenge.

  15. andreamv says

    @JasonFalls @bangpowcrash @jaybaer common sense works even in the digital age! thanks for the reminder

  16. stevenwtodd says

    @AmyMccTobin Yep, we’re all feeling our way throught this perma-connectedness. Responsiveness is key to me when I ask for something though.

  17. 40deuce says

    This is a question I struggle with all the time. Working for a brand that deals with people and companies world-wide, there are definitely times when it’s easier for our clients on the other side of the world t reach out to us, but those are sometimes the times when I’m sleeping on my side of the world.

    A lot of the time, it’s true that people can wait a few hours to get that response, but sometimes it requires immediate action. I’ve since adopted a rule that if I’m awake and in a position where I can respond accordingly I will. If I’m sleeping, I know that I’ll check things bright and early when I wake up (and I don’t sleep a lot) and respond as soon as i can. Most people don’t even notice if it takes a little bit of time to get back to them. As well, most people know that I’m located in North America, so they may assume that I’m sleeping. However, there are those late night occasions where I’m awake at 1am and do answer someone on the other side of the world and they’re surprised and usually very happy that I did answer them so quickly.

    So, my final thought is that if I can help out whenever I can and meet or even exceed customer expectations then that is super great, however, I’m still a person and need to sleep/eat/etc so I can function, so there may be an odd time that someone has to wait a bit, but I will get to them eventually. Being awesome on behalf of your brand is great, but you still need to live life like a normal person.


    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  18. says

    This is such an interesting debate, and I think I largely agree with @allenkristina that it really depends on your brand and customer base, though, as others have said, the real key is consistency with your responses. Providing exceptional customer service and response is great, and if it’s possible, then yes, you would have someone monitoring social media channels at all times. But I don’t think it’s necessarily expected and I don’t think companies should have any strong anxieties when their representatives are offline, so long as when they are online it’s effective.

  19. letstalkandchat says

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *