For any company that thought social media was a passing fad not worthy of their time, the numbers coming out of a recent study published by Opinion Research Corporation for Cone should come as a wake-up call. According to that study, 85% of Americans using social media think companies should have an active presence in the social media environment. What’s even more interesting is that those users actually want the companies to interact with them while there.

In Cone’s 2008 “Business in Social Media” study, social media was defined as “technology facilitated dialogue among individuals or groups, such as blogs/microblogs, forums, wikis, content sharing, social networking, social bookmarking and social gaming.”

When over 1,000 social media users were asked what companies’ role in social media should be, their answers were somewhat surprising. For all the griping about intrusive internet ads, lame marketing campaigns, and lousy customer service, you would think that the last thing users would want is to have companies invading the platforms they use for communicating and socializing with their friends and colleagues. As it turns out, the opposite is true.

It seems that users are actually receptive to the idea of companies getting involved on social media platforms and interacting with them while there. Out of the 85% of users who want companies to have a presence in social media, 34% want companies to actively interact with them and 51% want companies to interact with them as needed or by request. 8% think companies should only be passively involved on social media and 7% think companies should not be involved at all.

This desire for business-to-consumer interaction goes beyond simply offering customer service via Twitter. Although 43% would like to see companies offering customer service through social media, 41% would like companies to solicit feedback and 37% would like companies to provide new ways to interact with the brand via social media. These numbers could not be more clear: these consumers are practically begging for businesses to get involved in social media.

Not So Shocking: Social Media Users Like To See Social Media Used

If these numbers seem a little skewed it’s because the survey was only given to social media users. They’re more likely to understand and appreciate how social media operates. Where traditional advertising and marketing campaigns broadcast messages one way (business to consumer), social media encourages conversations. And these open dialogues are exactly what today’s social media users desire and participate in regularly. Give their active use of this medium for social communications, it’s not a huge leap for them to say they want to use social media in new and different ways – such as for communicating with businesses.

Although it can be scary for businesses to take that initial plunge, once they get in and get involved, it will be worth their effort. The numbers from this study back that up, too: 56% of users say they feel better about companies when they can interact with them on social media and 57% say they feel better served.

We definitely agree with those numbers. Most people don’t think to call customer service over minor complaints, feeling that it’s just not worth the effort. But if you have a brand representative respond to one of your Twitter posts like this, the experience is so much better: