Written by Mitch Joel - President, Twist Image and author of Six Pixels of Separation
That feeling of frustration that we have all experienced as consumers of a brand is not a constant or lingering feeling that turns someone from a consumer (or even a brand advocate) into a non-consumer (or a brand terrorist). We can't forget that Twitter - in its purest form - is the ultimate exhaust valve for many individuals to let some immediate steam loose. How many instances have there been when someone is waiting for a delayed plane, and they dump all over the airline in a moment of frustration? While in some instances the airline is at fault, more often than not it's an issue that has to do with security (some of the many things that are beyond an airline's control). Airlines aren't perfect and they mess things up in spectacular fashion from time to time, but that's not the point: what's important to note is that the frustrated traveler is not writing an obituary for their relationship with the airline and that those tweets or Facebook status updates are more like mutterings and "moments in time" rather than a greater issue of customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
In a World of Twitter Mutterings, Not All Tweets are Created Equal
In the evolving landscape of brands, Twitter, customer service and meaningful connections are things to behold. Have you even been in a situation where you stub your toe and in the throes of agony, your spouse asks if everything is okay and you wind up responding in an angry tone? That'sTwitter. People tweet whatever internal mutterings are frustrating them at one, specific moment in time. The platform acts like a mythical sea able to wash away your random mutterings as if the act of typing and publishing the thought to your social graph cleanses your soul (it's not always a request for customer service). It's a much more common practice than brands understand. Now, brands have to ensure that they're suddenly not in a constant state of being the spouse that's asking if everything is okay.
Respond... Not Quickly, but in Time
What does all of this mean? Perhaps these evolutions of engagement are teaching us that responding right away may not be as beneficial as responding in time. While that may read like semantics, it can be a very powerful concept: don't let your consumers stew over something, but also don't jump in just as they've stubbed their toe (if that's all it really is). This delicate balance may give a brand (and the consumer) some time to figure out if this is just a moment of externalized mutterings or something that requires true action.
Dynamics at Play
Understanding people is both an art and science. Understanding people as they begin to tweet the things that normally resided between their two ears is a completely new type of psychology, engagement and challenge for a brand (hence all of the missteps and call-outs). Getting it right will not be solely driven by the corporate structure that is put in place. Getting it right may well be about taking the proper time to understand the people you're connected to. Picking at consumers who are muttering simply because they have a platform to mutter through could open up a can worms that truly didn't require any level of engagement.
The adaptation of brands to this new reality is a fascinating thing to watch.
Mitch Joel is President of Twist Image — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. In 2008, Mitch was named Canada's Most Influential Male in Social Media, one of the top 100 online marketers in the world, and was awarded the highly-prestigious Canada's Top 40 Under 40. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation (published by Grand Central Publishing - Hachette Book Group), named after his successful Blog and Podcast is a business and marketing best-seller. You can find him here: www.twistimage.com/blog