Engaging Your Customers on Twitter

Engage Your Customers on TwitterIn light of our recent series on building a social media presence for your business, I thought it’s worth discussing some of the different ways you can engage your customers on Twitter.

Matthew Latkiewicz from Zengage, customer support software Zendesk.com‘s blog about customer engagement, recently contributed an interesting article to Mashable about choosing the right social media engagement style for your company. He suggests that there are about five different types, and which one you choose depends on the kind of you company you have and what sort of image you want to promote to your customers. Latkiewicz explores who or what does the talking in each of these engagement styles, and he also analyzes the tone companies using each engagement style employs.

I found this article particularly interesting because when I was a customer service agent in the early- and mid-2000s, the extent of our social media engagement was through the community forums. Since then, social networks have mushroomed, and now there are several ways to engage your customers, most particularly via Twitter.

Are you a Game Show Host?

This engagement style does little to solve customer issues and does more to generate buzz about the brand through contests, and giveaways. If your company is customer-centric, using this engagement style may alienate your clients. Only use this if your company can afford to give crap away and doesn’t mind using Twitter as a shoutbox instead of a support box.

Are you a Friendly Service Rep?

These are companies that use Twitter to solve customer problems much in the same way they use email, phone, or support forums. Some companies even have reps dedicated to solving support issues via Twitter. Most of us remember the SWAir-Kevin Smith feud earlier this year, as that was the biggest example of a company proactively using Twitter to solve a customer problem. Too bad Kevin Smith is a fat, self-important sumbitch and rejected their apology.

I myself have had a company reach out to me when I used Twitter as a sounding board about my frustration with their company. I had already called the company, so their effort was a little too late, but I was still impressed by their attempt to start troubleshooting an issue.

While using Twitter as a customer service channel can be effective, I wonder how difficult it is to track support cases generated through the site. Does anyone know of a Twitter plugin for Salesforce?

Are you in a Beehive?

In this mode, employees are always representing the company (even when they don’t want to). Although making your employees conform to the same corporate image on social media platforms is a good way to promote a uniform message, it does not take into account that person’s individuality or his or her identity outside of work. Latkiewicz names IBM as an exemplar as the Beehive social media engagement strategy. Just take a look at their “Social Computing Guidelines.” Pretty ridiculous, huh?

I wouldn’t advise implementing this strategy. Let your employees be themselves and identify themselves how they want. Come up with some basic guidelines (e.g., “Don’t defame the company or its customers.”), and let that be that. If one of them disparages the company or a customer, deal with that person in private.

Are you a Community Builder?

Community Builders do what they can to downplay the fact they are trying to sell a product or a servce in favor of creating a group of customers with similar likes and interests. This can be an effective way of capturing an audience, but the question still remains, what will you do with the community once you’ve built it? At what point can you start selling to the community?

Are you a Friend?

Best for smaller companies, this approach collapses professional and personal identities into one unit. This is essentially the type of presence we try to employ with the Web Devils Twitter account. We offer friendly advice, share what we’re thinking, and we try to engage others in the field. It has been useful for us because it allows us to talk with potential customers as we would face-to-face.

What about you? How does your company engage its customers on sites like Twitter or Facebook? What do you see as the future of customer engagement? Should every company hire a Twitter jockey to watch for mentions?

About Michael W. Ollinger

Michael W. Ollinger is a web marketing consultant and content writer, specializing in Wordpress, search engine optimization, and social media strategy. He is also a certified eBay consultant and active Amazon seller. When not staring at code or thinking of new ways to use social media to reach his target audience, Michael enjoys running, cooking, and making paper cranes.

3 thoughts on “Engaging Your Customers on Twitter

  1. Joshua Chase

    I tend not to engage people on twitter for business, but I will monitor hashtags that I know about. For instance it might be Magento, or WordPress, and I will engage people to only help them and hope they will remember me, check out our site, or subscribe to one of our blogs. I do find it interesting how big brands react much faster on Twitter than they do on the phone regarding customer service. I wonder if they would act more caring on the phone if the phone call was being broadcasted live somewhere for people to hear? :) Good article, I like that I can read through and figure out what bucket I’m in.

  2. Bret Phillips

    I think you are on to something about the phone calls. While they are monitored internally, there is no way for us to publicly listen to them.

    That is the beauty of social media for a business. It forces you to be more transparent, as well as quickly react to your customers.


  3. Matthew Latkiewicz

    Glad you liked the article Joshua (I’m the writer of the Mashable article); and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject Michael.

    And as Bret and you point out, the whole style of businesses on social media is driven by their very publicness. And so the style you create (which is most often a combination of the above, or even a totally different style) should be a conscious decision about what kind of identity you want your company to present.

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