Friday, March 20, 2009

Twitter Tumult

Early this morning, I was asked by a colleague to offer some advice regarding a negative (what I call a "Heat Tweet") Tweet re a client of his. This client is relatively new to the Twitter sphere and other social media mechanisms and their initial reaction was to retaliate by lodging a harassment complaint with Twitter. As I have opined before, because these applications are merely tools in what should be a much broader and comprehensive customer dialogue, we need to evolve our usage of them to align with our marketing and outreach strategies. Additionally, the rapidity with which information may be shared and the exponential number that our audiences reach when we provide content via them, makes me even more emphatic that organizations ought to consider a Social Media DJ whose primary responsibilities would be to re-craft our message and content appropriately Twitter, et al. If we issue a press release in response to a negative situation, we have a little more luxury in terms of crafting my response and messaging. Absent an overall strategy that outlines clear objectives for our participation in social sites, we are much more prone to knee-jerk reactions to feedback and elicit even more negative responses because of their wide-reaching favor.

I offer the following thoughts vis-à-vis response to negative Tweets:

  1. Don't React. Asking Twitter to remove or suspend an account for harassment or particularly outrageous Tweets may be a moot point. In some ways, this is just common sense, but it is worthwhile to highlight the fact that if a client is particularly aggrieved, removing their ability to express themselves may aggravate them further AND given how easy it is to simply turn to another social media or networking location to express the same thoughts, it may be futile.
  2. Participate. Acknowledging all feedback, negative or positive, speaks to an organization's credibility in terms of its customer service, consideration of input from various audiences, and it dilutes any particularly harsh criticism. Rather, I would recommend that we respond publicly in our timelines, even if our message is along fairly vanilla lines.
  3. Deliver. By carefully responding, organizations can very quickly turn shift the focus of the community to more credible information sites, e.g., "More information about this issue can be found….." Any other tactic may be perceived as a "cover-up" and thus elevate the Tweet to a visibility and status that is undeserved.
  4. Research. Any client who will take the time to harshly criticize is most likely a member of other networks and feeds their comments to other sites and forums. People who are passionate about social media do not typically embrace one mechanism. Do the research.
  5. Research Again. Unsolicited Twitters should be considered an EXCELLENT resource for understanding user community perception of our solutions. Just using the various applications to do Twitter searches should be a mandate of every marketing organization. I would actually advice doing this as a piece of Phase I in an organization's plan to roll-out a corporate Twitter account.
  6. Mean What You Say. Transparency and Credibility are key issues in current social media dialogues. Again, the rapidity with which information is exchanged via these networks also means that if we strike a false note in our messaging or we are too generic in our responses, we risk being exposed as just jumping on the Tweet bandwagon to comb for leads rather than to initiate meaningful dialogue with a variety of audiences. I suggest that not only should businesses consider corporate Tweet responses to negative messages, but also direct message the Tweeters when possible. For larger organizations, part of our implementation must be the development of tools that will receive, sort and track Tweets and direct messages and ensure that they are delivered to the appropriate groups in our organizations for follow-up. Almost worse than retaliating against a negative Tweet would be to ignore it entirely. Worse would be establishing a corporate Twitter account and just letting it run in idle.
  7. Integrate. Organization's need to develop ways of accommodating the information delivered, exchanged, and developed for social media and networks in a centralized, scalable, accessible fashion. If I look at negative Tweets from the perspective of overcoming objections in a sales cycle, I should be integrating them into my other customer collateral and marketing tools.
  8. Innovate. We need to consider how we engage various communities on our behalf in response to negativity. Organizations might be in "listen mode" on Twitter, but should consider actively supporting and launching customer communities in other applications. The ability to link feeds, blogs, Tweets, and Facebook Updates means that we can use all of these tools in complimentary ways. Organizations should look at their existing methods for delivering "testimony" and re-purpose content from those environments to Twitter, et al and vice versa.

Until next time….

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