New Opportunities in Social Marketing – Beware User’s Ire!

Hello?  Why are you calling me again, I was just complaining.

Hello? Why are you calling me again, I was just complaining.

Have you been trying to market your brand on social, or engaging with unsatisfied customers there?  For some it has been difficult, or has cost more money in the form of sponsored stories, promoted tweets and the like.  What you haven’t been allowed to do is to directly contact that person if they aren’t a fan or follower.  That appears to be changing on Twitter.  For brands, I think it could be good.  Users, not so much.

Yesterday’s article in Mashable does a pretty good job summarizing the change, so I won’t go into too much detail.  I want to raise some further questions though.  There is one legal question (actually more of an exercise, though) I have, as well.

Is a complaint a call to action or just a complaint

How many times in your life have you complained about something with no desire to have any resolution.  “I just needed to get that off my chest,” is a popular refrain in life.  A user’s non-reply to your online message is the electronic equivalent to that.

A few years ago I had the unfortunate experience to lose internet service for a period of almost 5 days.  While the irony was that I got on Twitter to complain about losing service, what wasn’t funny was that my provider never replied to me.  At least in that first day.  After the first day, it became a running joke to post how long I had been without.  Every post was hashtagged with the provider’s name.

I never received any reply, which pissed me off.  However, when did I expect a reply?  In that first day.  After that first day, it would have just infuriated me because all I was doing was getting it off my chest.

Twitter customer service

Twitter has become the case study on customer service.  Companies that get it right reply very quickly.  They also reply very publicly.  So as Mashable points out this new feature will be great for those situations.

The trick will be to split out those tweets that deserve a response, those that don’t and those you can’t do anything about.

    • Deserves a response.  “Man, just got this new Samsung TV and can’t figure out how to get Netflix working on it.”
    • Doesn’t deserve a response. “Man, just got this Samsung TV and it isn’t much better than the Sony I used to have.”
    • You can’t do anything about it. “Man just had my Samsung TV delivered but with the power out, I can’t watch anything.  Damn you.”

What your brand does for customer service needs to be tailored to your customers.  The other issue is your scalability.  Can you really respond to all of the first category?  If you set expectations amongst your users that you will reply, you need to reply every time.

Marketers, tread very carefully … actually don’t go here

This new feature is applicable for customer service for sure.  What I don’t think you should do is use this for marketing.  I may be a skewed sample size, but without some reason to contact me, DON’T.  Marketing messages in my twitter stream is something I have come to accept, but I will not accept you sending me a message personally without some personal reason to send it.  NEVER.

Spam, spam, eggs and spam, without so much spam in it

Users can turn this off, allegedly.  I wonder how granular this will really be.  Or if it will be at all.  I already get alittle bit of spamm-y DM’s.  I generally ignore, but what happens when I get flooded.  Or will I get flooded.  We will have to see.

Some users will fear this new ‘feature’ and will immediately turn it off.  Some will only turn it off when they realize what is happening.  I do wonder how Twitter will communicate this to the user base, as well.

So as a brand, what are you to do.  With little details, will I get a reply back telling me my DM was unsuccessful so I can turn to other mechanisms of customer service.  Hell hath no fury greater than a customer scorned.

While we are talking about spam, CAN-SPAM anyone?

With restrictions in place that prevent someone from messaging you directly without a relationship, the smell of spam was blocked.  No, does your unsolicited message start to smell more and more like spam.  What constitutes permission from the user to contact them?  Use of the handle in my complaint tweet?  Use of a brand hashtag?  Simple mention?

I ask this question, because when I saw the Mashable article I immediately pondered whether CAN-SPAM applies.  Leave aside the question of whether the act is even effective, should it apply here?

I think it might be a stretch to apply CAN-SPAM here.  A tweet is not an electronic mail message by the strict definition of mail, but I think you need to tread very carefully here.

CAN-SPAM is also a very ineffective law in general.  Has anyone had a decrease in e-mail spam?  No, I certainly have not.  So even if it applied to unsolicited tweets sent to my DM inbox the holes in the law are so large you could drive an aircraft carrier through them.

With great power, comes …

All this meandering aside, this is something you definitely need to look at.  You now have the ability to do things that we have been talking about for years such as channel-shift.  Now you can channel-shift in the same channel.  For all who deal with sensitive information this will be a great addition.

Do not abuse this privilege that Twitter is giving you and that your users are (the privilege is them not turning this off).  Evaluate honestly whether it is the right thing to do for that user.  Evaluate whether they are trying to get a response or just vent.

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