If monitoring conversations and knowing what you're listening for is the first ingredient in good online best practices, knowing when and how to respond is much more than good etiquette. It's become an integral aspect of brand management and can mean the difference between a flop - or worse, a crisis - and a deposit in your company's reputation bank.
It's easy to dismiss Twitter's usefulness as a tool.
That is until you figure out that on Twitter you can find mentions of your brand and you can actually connect with customers directly and provide a first line of response. Chances are, that in 140 characters, you won't be able to do much more. But don't underestimate the importance of that public gesture.
How to use Twitter for customer service
Many companies started integrating customer service on Twitter. This list I created is purely for customer service, but there is another important aspect of customer support, which is why in many companies there is a community evangelist role carved out.
There are also individuals who opted into community builder roles - some in official capacity for an organization, some because that's who they are. Go ahead and promote your many customer support people on Twitter by creating a list.
Ben Parr at Mashable wrote a handy post about using Twitter for customer service. As he says, it's ideal because:
- You can respond to a customer question or complaint immediately after seeing it without needing to have all the facts - take the problem solving part off line. Monitoring and responding is lightening fast, and right now it will cast you in a good light, especially if your normal customer service channels are in need of repair.
- You can be proactive and let your customers know where to find you - I started a list linked above, let me know if you'd like me to add your company's team to it. This will ease some anxiety over which number to call or being on hold. Provided you don't take two days to get back to them as I described here.
- You provide the added bonus of good service/product stewardship, which in turns creates a nice halo for your company and brands. Let's face it, Twitter is the most social of social networks. People have the opportunity to humanize the brand experience over time by being helpful and personal. I do wonder if companies are developing Twitter scripts?
How do you track tweets?
There are many tools you can use to track customer conversations on Twitter. For free, you could:
- Search for key terms or your company name with Twitter Search
- Build a Yahoo! Pipe (watch the how to video here) - here's an example ofhow Salesforce.com uses the tool
- Get email Twitter alerts with TweetBeep
- Use TweetScan to search for key words combined with a user
- Test drive monitoring up to three key words in real time with Monitter
- Distinguish positive from negative tweets with Twitrrater
- Look up who's following you in TwitterKarma
- Try Twittervision to see the global nature of this tool
- Look up daily top influencers on Twitterholic - expect to see more tools on influence
- Find and filter content by influence with PostRank
- Find out how many times a term was mentioned with TweetVolume
- Set up Google Alerts for the terms you want to monitor - you can route them to your email, or your RSS reader
- Use Social Mention for alerts on social media sites
- Track and rank the URLs people are talking about on with Twitturl
- Use Hashtags to learn what's happening right now
- Find a list of regular chats on Twitter
As it's the case with tools, your objectives will determine which ones are most useful to you.
Online monitoring is broader than Twitter. WebWorkerDaily pulled together some advice on how to make a monitoring dashboard to track online conversations. As Dawn explains, the real magic is in the content you're monitoring - your strategy and goals should come first.
For a fee, and for more than just monitoring in many instances, you can utilize:
- Radian6 - which allows you to set up a dashboard to monitor mentions across sites and tools and shows you brand sentiment, along with location, and integrating with WebTrends and SalesForce.com
- RapLeaf - helps you understand your customers better, simplify online media planning, enhance customer databases, and manage fraud risk
- BrandsEye - for monitoring online reputation and tracking negative sentiment
- ScoutLabs - web-based application that tracks social media and provides you with data on sentiment, trend spotting, buzz trend, share of voice, email alerts, customer rants and raves, as well as a platform to coordinate your response, assign tasks, add comments, and share product and marketing ideas
- Cymfony - collects all forms of content, organizes and categorizes it, and provides a powerful but easy-to-use interface with data visualization and discovery features that allow you to gain valuable insights from selected discussion most relevant to your brand
- BuzzLogic - technology platform identifies and organizes theconversation universe, combining both conversation-topic and audience to help brands reach more than 44 million users who are passionate on everything from the latest tech craze and cloud computing to parenthood and politics
- Spiral16 - for monitoring, collecting, and measuring the social media conversations, semantic analysis, conversation sentiment, and visualizing data in a 3D mapping so you can better understand the hubs of influencers (based on linkages) and how a message is potentially being spread
Customer service = brand management in social media
More and more companies are discovering the power of being first line responders on Twitter for customer issues. Microsoft just announced that it is joining Twitter with their own support channel. There are many examples of great brand management through customer service. Matt has aggregated a few.
And if you think that one customer with two followers may not be all that important, think again. Analysts and journalists are increasingly participating actively and may pick up on a random conversation - all of a sudden, you could have what we've come to call the Streisand Effect.
So don't jump to rash conclusion. Instead, jump on Twitter and join the customer conversation. Even if your customers are not there yet, chances are that those who talk about your company and brand on Twitter will come up in search - as in search engine search [hat tip Louis Gray].
Plus, you could start from a less than ideal position and turn things around to the point that your company develops a well though-out Twitter strategy, complete with customer segmented offers like Dell did.
[image by Neuro Productions Twitter Browser]