Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How do you use Twitter?

Twitter is a curious beast. I have been using it for about 9 months now and have managed 2,000+ tweets. Scarily, that averages approx 7 tweets a day. At present I have about 510 followers, and I would hazard a guess that whilst I follow potentially up to 250/300 of those people back 80% of them I don't know exactly who they are or what they do.

Because of the incredibly open nature of Twitter, I (try to) make a point of not mouthing off too much. Granted I do sometimes, but I don't say anything that I would freak out if the
person/company involved found out about. This is sometimes frustrating as you know it would make you feel better if you could let all those people know exactly what you think, but hey, we had to handle frustrations before Twitter, so I go with more traditional methods in these instances.

Sometimes, something does really bug you though, and because you know the company are on Twitter, sometimes you send a tweet to see how responsive they may be. I certainly have done this twice with @vodafoneNZ and I have to say, both times I have had a phenomenal response. My issues were solved amazingly quickly, leaving me with a brilliant brand experience and creating something of a brand advocate. One of my issues I attempted to solve through the call centre and hit a wall. I honestly believe that if I had not had direct contact with @vodafoneNZ, it would not have been resolved, and Vodafone would have lost an incredibly loyal customer (same cell number for 9 years).

On the other hand, I attempted to obtain information from @bloomcosmetics and while I did get an initial response (an unhelpful one) they never replied to my second call for help via Twitter. Colour me unloved. I have since moved on from the brand and probably won't purchase again. Yes, I am just one person, but I would hazard a guess this may have not just happened to me.

Now, what happens when a Twitterer vents on Twitter, in the hopes (I'm guessing) of gaining some form of a response from the company involved, and whilst the COMPANY come back with a very tempered response and solves this problem, an employee of this company (who the Twitterer unfortunately happened to be following) very openly bitches about what is going on. What then?

What we need to remember about Twitter and this goes all the way to celebrities (talk about PR nightmares!) is that because you have little control over who can see what you are tweeting, you are opening yourself and your tweets up to the world. Little mini press releases depending on who you are and who is following you. Are you really sure you know exactly who those 10/50/100/500 are, who they work for and how what you say could turn around and bite you in the arse?

Recently the lovely @livlarge sent out a Tweet which I think is something that more people (and companies) should embrace, maybe even take on as their ethos?
And then, employees should be reminded that even though it may be your personal account, unfortunately at the end of the day, we are all associated with our place of employment, and perhaps Twitter is not the place to vent all issues.


freitasm said...

However good, your Vodafone experience highlights lots of problems within the company.

The main one is customer services lacking accountability, especially when they promise to call the customer back and don't or simply don't fix the problem but don't tell the customer.

Another problem is that customer services don't seem to have goals - all I hear is how bad the experience is, people calling customer services, not having problems solved and then (the savvy ones) using online forums and social networks to reach someone on the top that will fix things.

Wouldn't be better if every customer actually received good service, with a "let's fix this on the first call" attitude? Wouldn't it turn a lot more people into "brand advocates"?

iChild said...

I feel as though your may have missed the point of my post and have decided that this is an opportune time to hash out whatever issue you have with Vodafone.

This post was about being aware of how ones comments on Twitter should be considered before being sent due to who may be following them, not about Vodafone. The Vodafone example was highlighting how one company uses Twitter as a real time direct response medium to help their clients. And from my experiences, they have done this very well.

While it may be true that customer services through 0800 numbers may not be fantastic with Vodafone, I do wonder if you can name a company which is? I also wonder if you have ever had the pleasure of working in a customer services call centre? I have. It's not pleasant. Constant calls from unhappy customers and you don't have the power to completely fix all of their problems? It is not that much fun.

Perhaps you might like to consider that when it comes to customer service, companies are trying their best, but they cannot give absolute power to all employees. Maybe you should be thankful that at least you are in a position where you can connect with 'someone at the top that will fix things' and can use your position possibly to help others have their issues solved?

Matt Harman said...

I think at this stage it's probably fair to say that a lot (if not most) big organisations are now reasonably on top of what people are saying about them on Twitter - and yeah, you're absolutely right, we should Tweet with the expectation that our words will be seen by the right people.

Of course, the only reason that's true is that Twitter is still only tiny in New Zealand (and I say that as an advocate for the service and as someone that uses it daily).

Google Trends says that Twitter has 10k daily users in this country ( That data isn't solid and is probably a bit understated - but reality is, it's not that difficult to keep on top of what's being said about your organisation and provide a great customer experience when you're only communicating with a fraction of a fraction of your customer base (

Which is all a long winded way of saying I agree with freitasm - Vodafone and any organisation communicating via Twitter do absolutely get points for trying - but the success or failure of an organisation's customer service needs to be judged based on their ability to effectively respond to their customer base - regardless of the medium customers select for that interaction.

If Vodafone et al can scale their interaction to cope with their entire customer base using Twitter - then that would be impressive....but call centre experience is a fair yard stick to let us gauge whether that's likely.

Excellent post, btw.

Anonymous said...

I left an @ reply via Twitter to Air New Zealand, asking "My dad's 6'7" and is too tall to reasonably fit into your seats. Do you accommodate passengers in this instance without them paying Business class prices?" I received no reply. Someone else even re-tweeted my question to Air New Zealand, and they received nothing either. This left me feeling a bit snubbed I guess, like they were ignoring the question because the answer is "no". Even if the answer is no, it is an opportunity to let their customers know what their policy is for accommodating tall passengers. It's not an uncommon problem, and I know there were other people who were interested to know Air New Zealand's answer.