Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why do companies respond to tweets anyway?

I have been on Twitter for a while but I am still struggling to see its value. I am not following that many people but enough that keeping up with their output is like drinking from a fire hose. But there is one reason to keep my account. Apparently complaining on Twitter is the best way to get a company’s attention these days. Never mind whether you are a valuable customer or not, a tweet gets you the attention you think you deserve.
Ignoring the fundamental issue that these companies would be far better off trying to avoid the situation where people become frustrated enough to vent online, I can’t help thinking that the fact that so many companies are reputed to respond more rapidly to tweeted complaints, compared to those received through other communication channels, is rather short-sighted.
Why are people that tweet, so much more important than people who post on Facebook, pick-up the phone, or talk face-to-face to a company representative? (What? Talk to someone? Hell no!)
Of course, one answer to the question is that these people are, supposedly, more “visible” than your average whiner. The guy standing at the check-in desk, shouting because his flight has been cancelled, is only heard by the rest of the people waiting patiently in line for their turn. The “Tweeter” on the other hand is going to be heard by…well, just who is he or she going to be heard by?
Less than one in 10 online users in the U.S. has an active Twitter account. And according to an estimate last year made by Barracuda Labs, 79 percent of Twitter users are inactive – they have less than 10 followers, follow less than 10 people and have tweeted less than 10 times.
So that pretty much guarantees that most complaining tweets are going to disappear into the void, EXCEPT when people search for a specific topic. I don’t know about you, but I don’t search for irate tweets about delayed flights, customer service screw-ups or the like. But you know who does, don’t you? That’s right, the people who are paid to keep any eye on the Twittersphere on behalf of the company in question.
With apologies to Winston Churchill, I can’t help feeling that never in the world of customer relations has so much attention been paid by so many to so few. It seems unfair to the rest of us who prefer less chaotic communication channels. Maybe we should start a Twitter campaign to change the situation.
So, what do you think? 140 characters or more please.

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