What brands need to learn about true fans

Are you watching the Super Bowl tonight between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants? I’ll be watching at least some of it, but my main interest in the NFL was in the in 90’s, watching Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys in whatever coverage was available in the UK.

By contrast, I was on the edge of my seat during the Ireland – Wales match in the Six Nations Rugby today. And [spoiler alert] being a passionate Ireland supporter (The two manifestations of my Irish ancestry are in rugby and whiskey), the end result was a bit of a kick in the teeth.

Chatting with a friend, I was struck by the difference between the ‘fan of a game’, as I am with the NFL, and he is with rugby, and the ‘true fan’ of a team. Watching a match as a fan of a sport can be quite relaxing, as you can enjoy an entertaining game without investing your own emotion. Watching as a fan of a team is a stressful rollercoaster of emotions which often ends in disappointment.

The Agony of Defeat

In fact, even when your team wins, it can be so stressful than you have little memory of the event, which was certainly true when I watched Chelsea win the 1997 FA Cup Final against Middlesborough, which was the first major victory for the team in 27 years, and the first in my lifetime. As I walked home from the pub after watching the game and people asked about it, I could remember the score, but not even who had scored. And that’s including a goal after just 42 seconds which remained a record for 12 years!

 

What brands need to know about their true fans

Here’s the important point for brands, and it isn’t about pricing season tickets, or how to sell hats and scarves. It’s the fact that the majority of fans will continue to follow their team with passion and enthusiasm despite the fact that they won’t win. Statistically, 99% of the teams in any competition will end up losing at some point, and will have lost the previous year, and the year before that, and potentially for many years before.

Brands always want to portray their best side, hiding flaws and imperfections in the belief that this breeds success, rather than some kind of marketing uncanny valley.

More perfect than Helvetica

The belief has always been that brands need to portray themselves as perfectly better than their competitors to attract customers, and because any flaw leads to complaints.

But that’s not the case – it’s how you react to any problems. The main complaints about brands via the internet are not that they screwed up – it’s that they don’t respond, react, or solve their screw-ups.

If you’re brave enough to talk about your problems, failures and mistakes with honesty and how you’ve solved them, it works. Talk to all the community managers who meet with their communities and find that explaining the reason behind common issues results in those communities becoming staunch defenders of them.

There are fans in the world who have spent decades following teams in lower leagues and divisions with extremely little chance of success, and will make great sacrifices to support them day-in and day-out. Wouldn’t you like customers like that?

Good service, bad service and social media

I went for a quick shopping trip at Bluewater yesterday, and it once again highlighted how important it is to align the whole customer experience of your brand, including your products, service levels and marketing. A comparison of three retail and social media experience sum it up nicely:

Store 1: Uniqlo:

I’ve heard various things about Uniqlo and browsed their stores, but this was the first time I’ve intended to make a purchase, having seen numerous mentions of their selvage jeans (Selvage refers to the method of stitching, if you’re not a denim geek). And the level of service was great – first someone was able to help me find the one pile of the right jeans amongst the masses on display, and also explained that they offer a free alteration service when I struggled to find the right leg length.Then the young lady manning the fitting rooms was also friendly and helpful when arranging the alterations and pinning the jeans, and the till staff maintained that. After 40 minutes I came back and my jeans were ready.

Store 2: Ed’s Easy Diner:

I’m a big fan of good burger joints and Americana, so Ed’s should have been perfect. But it was average for various reasons. Partly the quality of food doesn’t quite justify the price (the bacon on my burger was burnt and rock solid, the strawberry milkshake was mainly vanilla, and the chips were undercooked). And partly because the three waiting staff between them were disinterested at best. Having invested in something slightly overpriced and with a hefty amount of competitive restaurants nearby, seeing our food and drinks slammed on the table or being ignored when we tried to pay the bill really didn’t make up for the food. Especially when I’ve experienced alternatives including the constant favourite Byron Burger in London (for example).

Store 3: Soletrader:

The actual service in Soletrader wasn’t bad – reasonably quick, friendly and helpful. The problem is that they were totally hampered by the store infrastructure. I’ve received a voucher for the store, which can’t be redeemed online. I want a specific pair of trainers, which are never in stock in my size. And although I can order them to a physical store, I really wanted to try the two closest sizes to check the right fit. It’s the sort of problem which turns a normally docile and compliant customer into one who will cause any amount of hassle to get rid of his voucher and never go near the store again.

How about the social media marketing:

When I came back online, I decided to tweet about the 3 different levels of service – good, average, and hampered by store policies.

Interestingly, Uniqlo didn’t need to respond or acknowledge my recommendation, but various friends echoed the fact that instore it’s a great experience (Although apparently their email marketing can be pretty overwhelming). That’s fine as I’m quite happy to follow their Twitter account.

Ed’s Easy Diner didn’t respond which is consistently disapointing. I’d hoped to be reassured that my experience may have been a one-off, but can only assume it wasn’t.

But the most interested in the fact that Soletrader did get back to me on Twitter. I got an acknowledgement and an apology for the hassle, although yet again, someone attempting to offer service and customer care couldn’t actually provide a solution, although they did say ‘we’re looking into a way gift vouchers can be used online in the future’.

More effort needed:

Recent stats show that customers expectations of service and feedback via social media outstrip the expectations of companies to monitor and respond. That has to change, and it has to go just beyond monitoring mentions and passing on details.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect Ed’s to respond with any offers or compensation (though I wouldn’t have complained if they did), but at least acknowledging their was a problem with the service offered and finding out more about my experience may have helped them identify a way in which they could improve their business in a location with a high level of competing restaurants and a fairly captive market. It certainly wasn’t busy when we ate, and yet we still ended up on a table with a jukebox out of order.

And Soletrader really need to move more quickly to solve their infrastructure problems, or empower staff to sort a solution out. I hate to quote the Zappos example yet again, but it’s appropriate for a footwear company. If the marketing team on Twitter wanted to turn an annoyed customer into a loyal one, they’d just need to grab a pair of Onitsuka Tigers in blue/red in size 7 and size 8 – send them both to my home address and allow me to send back the pair which didn’t fit. I can give them the voucher code in advance, and they can deal with the hassle of it not being valid for an online order. But having checked the Soletrader site, it appears of 13 different shoes, they have 3 in stock in size 7 across the UK.

The financial risk would be the outlay on posting one reasonable sized box (About £10), and the risk of losing one additional pair of trainers (Retail £70, so under that). I wonder what their current cost is for customer acquisition, and what value they put on their marketing and advertising expenditure, but without being too engrossed in follower numbers, the fact that I personally have twice as many as their official account means that it would probably be a cost efficient exercise overall – and the fact that I also have a number of sneaker addicted friends (including a couple of sneaker collectors) would surely pay off.

Compare that to the knowledge that if I’d just paid for trainers I’d get free postage and returns to store. But by receiving a voucher which ties me into that store I lose all the benefits and service, and instead gain additional hassle.

Waiting for the connected ‘Internet of Things’

Slowly the idea of everyday appliances and devices being connected to the internet and communicating has gone from the initial mocking of ‘internet fridges’ to being increasingly accepted and desirable, particularly withe the ‘Internet of Things‘, which refers to ‘uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure’. That’s because business will have far greater information and control over every single object in their inventory and can respond to stock level changes effectively in real time.

But I’d just really like to have an internet-connected washing machine right now.
Zanussi washing machine broken yet again....

Meet my washing machine. It’s a Zanussi, bought almost five years ago. And roughly once or twice a year it has a complete breakdown, which happened again yesterday with a load of bed linen inside it, just to make it particularly inconvenient.

It was after office hours, so this morning I had to phone the service centre. They then have to contact the local engineer, which they no longer do directly. Instead (presumably due to sub-contracting), I now have to wait for that engineer to call me to arrange a time for a visit, and due to my own work commitments, it’s likely to be two days.

He’l then come and inspect the machine, decide whether he can repair it, or if he needs to order new parts, or if it needs replacing, at which point I may be able to convince someone to provide a replacement, by which time my young family will have created an epic backlog of washing, and I’ll be desperately hoping not to have any client meetings in the meantime.

If only my washing machine was connected:

But if my washing machine was connected to the internet of things, then it could be slightly different. As with more critical business equipment, when the fault appears, the washing machine could inform the service centre and the local engineer not only that it has broken, but also any appropriate fault code to indicate the problem.

It wouldn’t have to wait for office hours, or sit around for a call back to arrange a time. And with an accurate fault code, the engineer would already be able to decide whether a repair or replacement is likely, and could put everything in place to minimise any delays.

And most importantly, I wouldn’t be sat here slightly fustrated by the very helpful but inevitably hamstrung call centre staff, and would probably be praising the companies involved, rather than regretting the fact I ever bought an unreliable Zanussi washing machine and their ‘Mis-Appliance of Science’.

 

Users dissatisfied with social networks – are you surprised?

Apparently American consumers surveyed in the 2010 American Customer Survey Index ranked Facebook lower than any other business in its category, but it still managed to beat Myspace by a point. Facebook scored 64 out of 100, Myspace scored 63 out of 100, and by comparison Google scored 80 (A drop of 7 points on last year’s score). (h/t Mashable).

The question is whether anyone is surprised:

a) That social networks can lead to dissatisfaction?

or

b) That social networks are still growing massively despite such dissatisfaction?

(Note – I’m not picking out any specific network here – I’m talking about everything from a traditional forum to the big social networks).

Firstly, social networks in themselves can be immensely frustrating and problematic – knowing how they work, putting up with them when they crash, receiving messages about problems from an anonymous staff member with no route to reply or dispute are just some of the things which can annoy social network users.

As someone who has used social networks for many years, I’ve become accustomed to the fact that quite often you can try for months to get a response on a business-related issue. Sometimes even when you want to spend some budget with the company in question.

But it’s even worse if you’re a ‘normal’ user – when you signed up to the Terms and Conditions, you agreed your account could be deleted, and unless the media or a prominent tech blogger takes up your case, there’s no real recourse.

Secondly, social networks are fantastic and will continue to grow and attract new users, even amongst those frustrated with them. And it’s all because of a simple selling point – other people. Even if a social network is clunky and frustrating to use, you’ll continue to use it if there’s a critical mass of your friends, family, contacts and information.

Unfortunately Twitter wasn’t included, as so many people encounter it via a 3rd party client. And I didn’t see any mention of LinkedIn. Suffice to say, most of the main social networks do a reasonable job until something goes wrong – then you’re at the mercy of a large company which has scaled quickly to deal with massive demand.

Interestingly, Wikipedia topped the Social Media category with a score of 77. In News and Information, FoxNews.com debuted with a score of 82, which is the highest ever for any news site. There’s a little more info at ForeSee Results.

Will customer service come to social media?

Despite the constant call for companies to engage in customer service via social media, it’s rare anyone points out that the people running the social platforms are generally a bit rubbish at servicing customers themselves…

John Batelle writes about the challenge Google faces with the Nexus One – in that it’s not a company geared for customer service. Something that’s not a surprise if you’re a user of Feedburner for example.

I’m fortunate enough to have been introduced to a couple of very wonderful people at both Facebook and Twitter, which means I can get a bit more help than most people. But not only has that been a relatively recent development, but those contacts are only for my work activity (And I’m afraid I won’t be sharing their details, as I suspect they’d be bombarded with emails and probably never speak to me again.)

For my personal accounts I use the same customer service routes as everyone else – and like everyone else, I face a load of impersonal FAQs, contact forms, and seemingly circular links to try and get an answer from anyone to solve my problems…

And yet at the same time, I’m joining everyone else in proclaiming how useful social networks are in solving customer service issues and engaging with people to get them responses.

The only reason that the networks escape a lot of criticism appears to be either down to the fact we’re still sympathetic to the plucky little startups they once were, we’re worried about getting deleted if we complain, or we’re all waiting for the market to evolve to the point where social network customer service is as important to us as changes to the news stream or the way we Retweet.

Until then, we’ll have to live with the fact we’re trying to become open and transparent on networks which do their best to avoid hearing from us…

What’s in store for microblogging in 2010?

A guest post by Lauren Fisher, who specialises in online PR and social media at Simply Zesty – and can be found on Twitter at @laurenfisher.
As we look forward to a brand new year, I’m sure the burning question on everyone’s lips is – what’s going to happen to microblogging in 2010? In a year that saw Ashton Kutcher reach 1 million followers on Twitter and MSN launch their own microblogging service (and MSN China clone Plurk – Dan), the next year certainly has a lot to live up to. Here, I offer a few of my own predictions for microblogging in 2010, with Dan’s thoughts below.

Increased use in organisations

I’m talking here about internal use of microblogging, as a way for colleagues to collaborate and communicate with each other. We’ve seen Google Wave emerge as a tool for professional, organisational use and I think this is the path that microblogging will take in 2010. I’ve already written on here about my thoughts on Yammer (which I still stand by) and I think we will see microblogging tools play a bigger role in internal corporate communications, as an easy and efficient way to communicate with each other. The benefits of realtime will be no more paramount than for businesses.

Dan: Totally agree, although I’m not sure I’d pick Yammer out as the key product in this area – the move is towards integrating microblogging as part of a collaborative and project management toolset – e.g. Salesforce Chatter. The novelty of an ‘internal Twitter’ is fine, but doesn’t convert those who don’t like Twitter, or those happy to DM via Twitter already. Integrated tools give reasons for people to get involved.

Twitter Declining

I won’t be the first, or last, person to say this but I think Twitter may have reached its height of popularity and I think numbers will start to dwindle, albeit slowly. The love affair with Twitter has been exciting, but it might just be over. The avalanche of spam accounts has a part to play here, but I think that when Twitter reaches its highest point of saturation, is conversely when you start to lose value in the site. It has become incredibly noisy and I am beginning to question the real use of it.

Dan: I agree to some extent. I think some of the expansion already has been down to a huge number of spam accounts, and it’s something Twitter has started to tackle, but will always be a huge problem. The lesson here is to learn from the most popular 3rd party apps – Tweetdeck and Seesmic for example, which allow far better filtering than Twitter itself. The noise levels don’t bother me too much because I’m fairly selective about who I follow (Hard to believe when I’m following almost 2k people!)

Microblogging as customer service

I think that more and more companies will embrace microblogging in 2010, beyond the extent we’re seeing now. Businesses will realise the potential of microblogging as a customer service platform though, rather than a place for sexy social media campaigns. I don’t think there will be many more hashtag competitions, we’ve had pretty much every variation of these! I hope that more companies will realise the value of microblogging to source and, most importantly, solve issues for customers. As consumers, we are expecting everything to be solved in real-time and this is what we’ll expect businesses to cater to. The power of crowdsourcing will also be recognised more and we’ll see more companies opening up product development to the masses.

Dan: Totally agree that almost every company should be using Twitter as an integral part of overall improvements to customer service. I expect to reach any tech company via Twitter, and those that do have an active role tend to respond quickly and get my repeat business!

No to video microblogging

It’s not an area that’s really taken off and I don’t think 2010 will be the year for video microblogging. Some sites have made a good attempt, such as Vidly, but once the initial shine wears off the uptake is slow. I simply don’t think that microblogging lends itself to video. A quick text update is one thing : shooting, uploading and tagging a short video is another. We’re still not as comfortable in front of the camera as we are in front of the keyboard and I don’t think this will change any time soon.

Dan: Damn it – this is an area that comes back to haunt me after I made a prediction on video at a conference that Seesmic’s original video blogging platform would take off in 2009. And I was wrong for exactly the reasons above. I’d say for the over 20s, audio blogging such as Audioboo is more accessible. However, I think there’s a huge group of teenagers who are very accustomed to broadcasting themselves on Justin.tv and Ustream. If someone taps into that market and can lure them away from sites which are heavily integrating with Facebook, Twitter etc, then we may see video microblogging take off in a couple of years. It’s also likely to be primarily mobile, and the odds are people will still video other people rather than themselves…

Location –based microblogging

If Twitter is to continue growing in 2010, I think the answer could be in location-based services. As mobile internet usage rapidly increases, we’re all going to be using location services more. If we can make real connections on Twitter with those that are physically close to us, as a more integrated part of the whole microblogging experience, this could prove incredibly popular. Integrating tweets at real-world events such as concerts and sport events will also become more popular, bringing people physically together.

Dan: Totally. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more integration between location, microblogging and special offers, but that’s definitely going to arrive this year – look at mobile social location games like Foursquare, or Google stepping up their location-based efforts. And events are a huge influence on bringing people together on Twitter – the FA Cup, the Superbowl, Eurovision etc as examples…

Integration with sites

As more people will be moving away from Twitter itself, I think microblogging will play a bigger part in existing sites. The new redesign of LinkedIn sees the now familiar stream of status updates with more prominence and I think this is probably the way many sites will go, including email services, encouraging even further interaction between people through short updates. As we become increasingly productive online in 2010, we’ll expect the microblogging functionality to feature more heavily in sites we’re already visiting, than having to go to a separate site.

Dan: Twitter, Facebook and Google are the three services that you should expect to seemlessly be integrated into almost every site you visit in the next 6 months. Each one is becoming very close to the single unified ID many people have talked about…

Microblogging in 2010 – what do you think?

Should customer service come via Twitter?

A couple of interesting posts have highlighted both the positive and negative of the increase in customer service by brands on Twitter.

Andrew Grill has written a detailed account of his dealings with British Telecom in a post titled ‘Why call centres need to embrace Twitter and IM for customer support. In it, he details a familiar bad experience with an endless chain of Interactive Voice Response systems and staff.

In the midst of it he contacted @BTCare who directed him to the helpline, but the eventual solution came from the section of BT.com which offers an interactive chat service with an advisor.

Meanwhile Dave Winer writes ‘Sorry I still hate Comcast’ – critical of the company which has received plaudits for using Twitter effectively to reach out as a customer service tool – in Dave’s case they couldn’t stop him getting ‘fired as a Comcast customer’ and offended him even more by telling him that they liked him during the process. Which is why Dave now prefers to avoid being cut off or dealing with Twitter reps for his AT&T account.

 

I’m not sure it’s about the tools being used, or even the amount of resource directed to each one (Andrew suggests that the 7 people he spoke to via the phone would have been better served monitoring places like Twitter etc).

I’m fairly sure it’s about customer service people being helpful and having the authority to solve problems etc proactively, whether that’s via the phone or Twitter.

It’s important to be in the place customers want to reach you, and equally important in the modern internet age to be monitoring for those people who might have a problem that they announce to others without contacting you directly.

But being aware of a customer’s problem doesn’t solve it.

I’ve had good experiences with some companies via Twitter – for example the chap who was running www.twitter.com/godaddyguy was incredibly helpful when I had hosting problems. He chased for answers, emailed, and even offered to call to ensure the problem was resolved – and all this was in the same time as it took to get a cursory email response via their online help service.

Partly, Twitter is a great tool for customer service, because it’s easy for companies to monitor, and quick for customers to use to share information, praise and complaints.

But partly, I think, the most proactive customer service people are eager and excited by using new technologies like Twitter, so you’ll tend to find more helpful people on there than in the call centre hiring whoever they can at the most cost-efficient wage.

I think we’re a long way from Twitter, Get Satisfaction etc replacing call centres – but I can’t wait for the day they do because it will enable everyone to highlight the proactive, useful, customer service staff from the bad far more easily, and mean that everyone gets a better service no matter who they’re dealing with.

Two things I’ve enjoyed recently

It’s always nice to be able to post about good things for a change. So I thought I’d highlight a television advert I actually enjoy, and a company which have given me good service.

First up – the advert:

It’s a new Dyson, and I think it’s a great example of a product with the marketing built right into it (something which Dyson do a lot). What I like is that 30 simple seconds outlines the problem that the new vacuum cleaner solves without any outlandish claims of hard sell.

If it’s a problem which you recognise, you’ll want to buy one. And the best thing is the flipside – it doesn’t worry that people who don’t have that particular problem won’t buy the product, because they wouldn’t have bought it anyway. In fact it even makes you feel better about owning an alternative if it’s avoided the problem.

And on another positive note, I just wanted to mention that the firm I’ve used for car insurance, Adrian Flux, have been great both when I first booked the policy, and when I recently cancelled the renewal while I spend some time rebuilding my car. Considering my pathological hatred of phoning company hotlines or helplines, they were well-informed and helpful, and didn’t try to upsell me with things I didn’t want or need. So credit where credit is due – and I’ll happily use them again for insurance.

It’s why the announcement of record profits of the Co-operative Group lept out at me:

‘Chief Executive Peter Marks contributed the company’s success to a rejuvenated Co-operative Group.

He said the food business has been driven by successful store refits, product innovation and greater customer service.’ (bold added by me).

So innovative products and improving customer service could lead to record profits?

So why are so many companies absolutely rubbish at customer service?

Is any publicity good publicity for Ryanair?

You may have already seen the blog outcry regarding comments made by a Ryanair employee after Jason Roe claimed to have found a bug in the Ryanair site.

The comments on his blog included the gem: “what self respecting developer uses a crappy CMS such as word press anyway” – which got picked up by a certain Matt Mullenweg, and a lot of other WordPress users (Guess which CMS I use and recommend!)

Then the official response from Ryanair poured petrol on the fire:

(From Travolution) Stephen McNamara from Ryanair said:

“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion.

“It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

“Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel”

Now both Ryanair and boss Michael O’Leary are not afraid of controvery or picking a fight.

But…

Google blog search for Ryanair Feb 24, 2009

Google blog search for Ryanair Feb 24, 2009. Top blog is Matt Mullenwegs

Then comes….

Google News search for Ryanair Feb 24

Google News search for Ryanair Feb 24

Resulting in:

Normal Google Search: Feb 25 - Idiot Bloggers in at #4

Normal Google Search: Feb 25 - Idiot Bloggers in at #4

What is interesting is that Ryanair currently has a fairly strong position in terms of competitors (It’s them and Easyjet, really), and it’s unlikely to see any strong rivals enter the market in the current economic climate.

And certainly previous controversies, or plans just announced to increase charges for luggage etc, haven’t hurt them too much in the old media world.  They had cheap prices and some name awareness.

But there’s no guarantee someone couldn’t arrive with a difference approach if the market is viable – for instance Jetblue or Southwest?

And funniest of all:

Imagine any other company actively courting negative publicity and high ranking negative search returns on the same day as it’s revealed Ryanair plan to keep customer costs down by selling advertising on their booking website.

And Brand Republic also says: ‘Nearly all of Ryanair’s flights are booked online, which the airline plans to use to bring in advertising from non-travel and FMCG brands.’

In summary:

They’ve gone out of their way to guarantee prominent negative results on a major source of almost all of their revenue, on which they are building plans to advertise irrelevant companies which will surround a site on which people want to complete a purchase quickly and efficiently, and on which a confusing bug/anomaly has been discovered.

Bonus extras:

Compare that to Richard Branson phoning someone who complained about Virgin airline food.

Suddenly that cheap flight might not seem worth the saving, particularly when a sandwich, crisps and a drink can cost £10, a mobile phone call is £3 per minute, and it costs you £10 each way to check your luggage, which is likely to rise shortly.

Would anyone now believe;

““Overpriced retailers like Stansted have conspired with the airlines to get passengers to show up three hours early to spend money in their overpriced shops,” Mr O’Leary said. (The Times).

Or:

‘Ryanair critic called ‘idiot blogger’ by staff member. After flying with them last month, I feel like one too’ (The Telegraph)

How I would use Twitter to deliver great Customer Service!

What the experts say

Today, Joel Postman posted on corporate twittering at SocialMediaToday He makes some good points – the first being that we should know the site is official and another is that the corporate twitters must be empowered to help the consumers.

My experience of customer service via Twitter

I planned today to follow my previous post about the apparent pointlessness of corporate micro-blogging. One of the things I was going to say was that my experience of corporate twittering is negative. A rep comes back to you and says “what is the problem?” . I waste time replying and that is the last I hear of them. So certainly, if corporate twitters can do something for me, I am persuaded. Otherwise, I don’t think Joel’s suggestions go far enough.

Twitter as crowd sourcing

In the post I had prepared before I read Joel’s article, I was going to liken twittering to crowd sourcing. Crowd sourcing has three important features:

  • Anything we do is small, easy and completely repeatable.
  • Anything we do is redundant – the show will go on without us.
  • Any useful outcome of crowd sourcing could have been generated from any one of the crowd.

Twiitter fits the crowd source model well. When people recount the benefits, they almost always say they get solutions to problems – not from specific people but from anyone who happens to the be listening. Sometimes you get a solution and sometimes you don’t.

Having a customer rep scanning for messages and trying to answer them quickly and effectively is a different model entirely.

Barack Obama’s nifty use of Twitter

Barack Obama’s use of Twitter exploits its broadcast facility. No one answers if you reply with DM! A normal reply takes you in one click to the speech that he is making at the minute. Next to the videocast are four buttons, encouraging you to take action for his campaign in one of four easy clicks. That is a good use of the “minute action” model of crowd sourcing.

Corporate use

I haven’t seen any other corporate use that is any good at all. We may love Twitter, but we won’t be thanked for trying to use it to do what it can’t.

What I would try if I had to!

If I was using Twitter for customer service, I would reply automatically to any Tweet about my company, with a link taking to the customer service line. Then would link up the customer service line to txting, email, DM, Skype, so my customer can communicate quickly with whatever medium they have to hand.

Twitter would come the opposite of ‘broadcast’. It would be a listening post where I can find customers having hassles and move them to a channel where I can help them.

Positive feedback

I might have one rep scanning for Tweet’s that are positive and reply publicly thanking them for the compliment! That should be contagious! It would be a great experiment if any corporate would like to try it?

PS Joel, when will SocialMediaToday fix its comments so we can participate. Notice 0 comments, so it is not just me, I think.

Dan’s Note:

Further to corporate Twitter accounts, there are some which have started working in the way Jo describes, using the likes of Twitter search to monitor for mentions of a company or product and then responding. They include Comcast, Dell, Zappos, Qik. There’s a list of all brands on the Fluent Simplicity blog, and we’re compiling our own list – hopefully building on this by separating the good and bad, and listing case studies which show how Twitter and microblogging should, and shouldn’t be used. You can see the Business Case Studies for microblogging and Twitter here.