Why Twitter Isn’t Your Holy Grail
I adore Twitter. I spend a great of time on Twitter. I have made lasting, valuable connections on Twitter. I’m one of the biggest Twitter cheerleaders you will hear (heck, I just wrote a book about Twitter with Laura Fitton and Michael Gruen called Twitter for Dummies). So why, then, do I not automatically include it in every client strategy, or promote it as “the answer” to all business issues? Because it isn’t.
Twitter is a valuable piece in your social media puzzle, but it is only a segment of your larger plan. (You do have a larger plan, don’t you? If not, go back to the drawing board until you do.) What’s more, it is a segment that can fail on occasion, in spite of your best efforts to use it wisely and well. In fact, there are some companies out there who are using Twitter well, and in innovative ways, but still failing at their overall business model.
Today’s case in point is Comcast. The formerly beleaguered telecommunications company found that Twitter was an effective customer service channel when they started an account called @ComcastCares. People flocked to it for “real time” customer service support and the more personal feeling you get from quick response to your issues, because you knew it was manned by a real person (Frank) – it gave Comcast a human face. I adore the folks that man the various Comcast accounts (ComcastBill, ComcastGeorge, ComcastBonnie, and so on). They listen, they monitor, they respond.
In spite of all the inroads the Comcast reps have made by using Twitter as a channel to improve Comcast’s image and provide better support, in the end they are fighting against their own company’s continuing inability to provide good service offline. Customers use the phrase “it’s Comcastic” sarcastically when something isn’t working for a reason (“What happened?” “Oh, my car stopped working for no reason – it’s Comcastic!”). Comcast has an infrastructure that, in many parts of the country, is woefully inadequate and fails repeatedly. This is not the representatives’ fault, but it affects their jobs online. Too often, I’m sure, they get customers like myself who are forced to use Comcast for lack of any other option, which would be fine if it worked, but who are then faced with problem after problem, outage after outage, service call after service call.
If you are going to open your customer service channel (or any other business channel or feedback channel) to the public, your company needs to back the people manning the account(s) up. Comcast proves that if you can’t put your money where your mouth is, your work toward brand perception improvement or better customer care can still be damaged, even when people interacting with your company on that platform appreciate what you’re trying to do. There comes a time when being responded to and told it will be fixed for the umpteenth time just isn’t enough. Customers love the human contact, sure, but at the end of the day they want results, and not to have to come to your brand representative with the same problem over and over.
The moral of this anecdotal analogy is simple. Any social media campaign needs not only more than one facet online, but a strong backbone at the company level offline. Make sure your company is ready to stand tall under the strain of more attention, and ready to truly fix the underlying main issues or problems, not just what’s on the surface. If you aren’t ready to make real changes if needed, then you may want to rethink your engagement strategy until you are.