This morning I clicked onto a brand’s Facebook page and was confronted with a strange sight.

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This is what comes up on an increasing number of different brand pages across Facebook. Essentially, Facebook is naming and shaming the admins who are poor communicators. But why? Why does Facebook care so much about how fast you’re responding to messages?

The answer is quite simple.

Social media has changed the way that we communicate. With each other, but also, with brands. Whereas it used to be that brands would communicate with their customers via television, radio or newspaper adverts now the dynamic has changed. Quite dramatically.

But how has communication changed?

Well, social media allows consumers to speak directly to, challenge, praise and call out brands through their various Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook accounts. These are all very public communications with brands, which means that failing to reply to people tends to lead to people believing your brand doesn’t care about them. Real-time response rates should be a critical element of your social media strategy. Many customers expect a reply within only a few minutes of them posting a complaint (or praise). While they don’t expect an answer solved instantly, they do want some acknowledgement from your customer service team.

The real-time response must be what your brand aspires. Anything less than that will only invite scorn.

Major brands such as Oreos, Nike or McDonalds are all able to answer fans quickly because they have entire teams dedicated to their digital media presence. However, many smaller brands do not have the resources to maintain a constant online presence leaving them at risk of alienating their customer base.

So how do they get around this new world order of real-time responses?

Simple. They don’t.

Consumers are often aware that smaller brands aren’t able to maintain a 24-hour social presence and, more often than not, they’re willing to show a significant amount of leeway for them. However, brands need to meet their customers half-way. They NEED to be responsive to a customer’s questions and complaints, but they can also do it in a period that works for them.

For instance, they can outline on their Twitter bio that they will only be responding to tweets between 9 am and 5 pm. These are the standard business hours in which their social media manager is operating.

By having a schedule, distinctly in your bio, your brand can maintain reasonable hours while still able to offer (relatively) real-time responses to customer queries. It’s important to remember, however, that even if you’ve got your operating hours in your bio you HAVE to respond to crises if they arise. No amount of “Dave’s not here, man” will placate the web.

With Facebook openly naming and shaming their pages which don’t answer messages quickly, they’re hoping to bring real-time responses into the mainstream. The question is whether brands are going to listen and change their tact.