Social media means many things to many people, but one thing it doesn’t suggest is a happy customer service experience.

Only 5 percent of respondents said they wanted to use social networks for even simple inquiries and even fewer (3 percent) thought it would work for harder problems, according to recent research by American Express.

Highlights from the research mitigate against the idea that social media is a good forum for fixing things for consumers. Survey respondents, for instance, prefer almost any other mode of communication.

“For simple inquiries, the most preferred way to get help was via a company’s website or email, with speaking to a real person on the phone in a distant second,” noted eMarketer. “For difficult problems, nearly half of internet users wanted to talk to a human on the telephone, with face-to-face help coming in second with almost a quarter of respondents.”

While the stats indicated that 23 percent of U.S. internet users have used social media for customer service related issues at some point, about half really just employed the platform to vent.

People may be tweeting to seek solutions or voice displeasure and taking to Facebook to flog a business over a bad experience. But it’s probably best, the research suggests, for companies to stick to more traditional customer service practices.

“For brands, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to start ignoring customers’ problems when they’re posted to social sites,” eMarketer concludes. “But it may be more a question of damage control and managing negative social buzz than of actually helping customers with their problems.”