Some Wild Ironies – Social Media, Twitter Fail and Customer Service

Some Wild Ironies – Social Media, Twitter Fail and Customer Service

Two ironies. Both connected with Twitter, and one highlights the general ineffectiveness of Twitter for business.

One – Relying On Twitter

Just participated in a chat about customer service where the topic was whether call centers should jump into using social media for their customer contacts.

Of course, there’s the usual promoters and fanatics singing holy roller yehaws in favor.

Except that Twitter has been having a bad day. Many people in the chat were not seeing the updates, and the slowness caused a number of people to give up.

So, we’re discussing customer service on Twitter, and Twitter’s use for customer service, except that people can’t actually get involved in the chat because of reliance on a technology they neither pay for or control. This has happened multiple times on Twitter.

The irony. I pointed this out. Ignored.

So, tell me. Are you willing to rely on a company that has no legal obligation to you so you can interact with THEIR customers?

Shaking head.

And, Can you move Twitter Customers To “Other Places”?

There’s an assumption that if you can capture the interest of people on Twitter, it’s relatively easy to get them involved in participation elsewhere — on your website, blog, or bricks and mortar business.

After all, if you can’t, how can you monetize the involvement, and how can you end up with anything but more overhead and wasted time?

Here’s an interesting case:

Admittedly, this is a single case, and I often say that any single anything means nothing. Except it provides a hint of things to look at.

For about two years Marsha Collier and a few other people have run the #custserv chat on Twitter. The conversations tend to be lively and fast, but fairly low level, with a lot of mom and apple pie stuff talked about, and very little insight, but hey, it’s Twitter, and as I wrote: “Twitter may not make you stupid but it sure will make you look stupid.”

Marsha is the offer of over 30 books — Dummies books mostly focused on Ebay. You know. Ebay for Dummies, Ebay for Senior Citizens For Dummies, Ebay for Short People Who Are Dummies. She’s been really successful at that, and while I would rather die than write those book (I’ve done a few Idiot’s guides, and frankly the process is pretty tedious, since you write for the format), you have to admire the commitment to her Ebay purpose.

Anyway, she’s been trying to branch out into more general customer service issues, and increasing her visibility by running the chat. Again, nothing wrong with that. And also creating Facebook pages, LinkedIn pages, Ning pages, well, you get the picture. Oddly no website.

A while back Marsha and another #custserv founder set up a new Ning area, and they’ve been promoting it like crazy via Twitter, including regularly inviting people with unresolved customer service issues to register their complaints AND include company specifics, a dubious practice.

It’s meant to be a community, and if you participate in the chat, you’d think that it would be a hive of activity. After all, it’s created by “customer service experts”, promoted by “social media promoters” and has a built in audience from the chat to “push” over to it. Marsha IS a good self-promoter, so you’d expect good things.

It has a lot of things going for it, at least theoretically, which is also the case for much of customer service and social media. It “should” work.

But, it doesn’t.

There have been ZERO takers on posting unresolved complaints. Which is nice, actually because what they are doing, in the absence of a method to resolve those problems that would require companies to respond there, is really just plain old muckraking.

What about other posts? Isn’t there lively community discussion?


Most of the posts and responses are from the “principals”. While people have signed up almost NONE of them have made a peep.

Apart from my feeling better that crap doesn’t always win out, what’s my point?

Just A Suspicion…

I suspect that apart from the hideous design from these social media fanatics that characterizes the look and feel of community, there’s a much more important reason why it hasn’t worked (yet). Maybe.

It may be that many people on Twitter engage in discussions not so much because of the topic, but because it’s ON Twitter. Ask them to move elsewhere and engage elsewhere, and it doesn’t happen.

My own experience trying to drive people to engage via tweets provides some additional but weak evidence of this. I have over 200 articles, many commercial print grade on my sites, all original, and many purchased by print publications for reprint. I also have about 20,000 twitter followers on my various accounts, so it makes sense to send to followers links and info about these articles, which are available free.

First, the click thrus are low. That doesn’t surprise me because, as I’ve explained elsewhere, very few of your followers ever even see, let alone read all your tweets, because of the “streaming effect”.

Second, though, for the people who did visit, did they actually do something or participate? We have two indicators, actually more, but two main ones. On all our article pages, users can share the article with others, and we can count how many do so. Very few do.

And, we have comment areas on all our articles and encourage people to participate. Here, the participation rate is even worse. Even though many of the articles are controversial, there’s no conversation.

In a sense I’m in the same boat as Collier et al. I certainly can’t claim to be superior in the “move from Twitter” to website, here.

One of the other indicators, of course is whether people buy my books, and I can’t track that, but I surmise that there aren’t thousands of Twitterites coming over to purchase.

So, What If…

What if I’m right that, to steal a phrase, “what happens on Twitter stays on Twitter“. What if it’s true that even when it appears your followers are super keen and want to interact with you on Twitter, they have NO interest in interacting with you on your website, or through email, or any other way.

What if, as Mcluhan suggests, it’s NOT you, but the medium that’s the message.

We don’t know, of course. But I have a sneaky suspicion that this IS true for a majority of people you might think are interested in your business. Of course, not everybody. Obviously there are relationships that can be forged and can be taken elsewhere. No question.

But..what if…

It’s scary. Or it should be. I bet in 2-3 years we’ll (well not me) will discover that the business value of Twitter is horribly low, and that it’s a lousy tool for business. Why not me? Because I’ve seen enough data and had enough experience to conclude it IS a poor business investment overall.


Author: Robert Bacal

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