Recently everyone who follows Air Asia on Twitter saw this tweet from Denéa Buckingham (@GourmetRabbit):
Since cavemen first started bartering for the roundest rocks, “word of mouth” advertising has been the gold standard of commercial promotion. Unsolicited endorsements from unbiased sources carry a lot of weight. Does the same principle now apply to the “140 characters of Twitter”?
The tweet we quoted above highlights two areas of increasing importance to businesses of all sizes:
- The customer service value of social media, and
- The potential promotional benefits of social media communication.
Customer Service via Twitter
The immediacy of Twitter makes it ideal for many customer service situations. After all, when customers contact a company with an issue, they want it resolved fast and with the least amount of fuss. That’s virtually the definition of a tweet. Twitter, and social media in general, has an impact on your company’s brand. As we see from Denéa Buckingham’s tweet, excellent customer service through social media can make a very positive impression.
Best Buy has grabbed onto Twitter with its @twelpforce. Apparently, anytime members of the company’s Geek Squad aren’t driving around in cool little cars, they’re monitoring this Twitter account and answering questions. When tech questions can be answered in 140 characters, it’s pure gold for the company.
Of course, that brings us to the dark side of trying to manage customer service through Twitter. Sometimes significantly more than 140 characters are required. For this reason, it’s important to be able to move the conversation to a more appropriate platform and provide a variety of channels for initial customer communication as well.
Before we leave the topic, don’t think that all customer service through Twitter has to be oriented toward problem solving. We heard about a customer at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto, California who was tweeting about how much he was looking forward to the hotel spa when he arrived. He included @FSPaloAlto in his tweet. The hotel saw the comment, communicated with him and got his spa reservation on the books. Savvy companies are proactive in their use of social media.
Image Building Through Twitter
Consider Denéa Buckingham’s comments about Alaska Air again for a moment. The last time we checked, @AlaskaAir was approaching 80,000 followers and is included in more than 2,400 lists. How much would a targeted ad buy of that size cost? It wouldn’t be cheap. And, as we said above, the weight carried by unpaid, unsolicited customer testimony is invaluable.
The other side of this is that problems can be immediately broadcast far and wide, which makes it important, especially for larger companies, to establish a separate Twitter account for customer service issues. On Twitter, even when a company is able to quickly resolve a problem, there’s a good chance that followers won’t see the “happy ending.”
Other social media, Facebook for example, do not have this limitation. A friend once had an issue with a small company that sold inkjet printer supplies. He couldn’t get off their email list by using the unsubscribe link. He found them on Facebook, aired his gripe and the issue was resolved. He thanked them publicly on their Facebook page.
It doesn’t matter if you use Facebook, Twitter, or another social media network – social media is one of the five customer service trends that every company should be aware of and using.
We want to point out one more cool aspect of unsolicited positive buzz that is created on a business’s Twitter feed. Highly paid advertising copywriters are always trying to distill their messages down to short and pithy sentences and phrases. With its 140-character limit. Twitter users do that automatically!
“A man checks Twitter on an iPhone,” © 2010 Steve Garfield, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.