Twitter and customer service; how to listen

buzz_listen.jpgIn last Friday's post I posited that Twitter, when used correctly, could be the ultimate customer service tool. It's immediacy, portability and sincerity are unmatched. As with other forms of social media I think that the first step for most companies should be listening. It's crucial to wrap your head around how the community works, see who is talking and what they're saying.

Similar to other forms of social media, listening does not even require you to have an account. You can use the resources that I've listed below (in most cases) without a username and password. The resources here will give you an idea of how your customers and potential customers may be using the service. This will help you create a customer service strategy for Twitter. It's very important to take time with this and make adding value to the community your number one priority.

Having great customer service is a huge PR benefit as well as keeping customers happy and loyal. I'm constantly amazed at how many companies get into trouble because of poor customer service. Generally it's things that could have been caught and resolved on the spot had they been listening. This ranges from 800 numbers to support emails to blog posts. It's key that Twitter (or other micromedia) is just one part of a larger customer service strategy. 

Here are some helpful Twitter tools to get you started on your listening journey.


Twittermeter allows you to track keywords across the public timeline of Twitter. Go in and search for your brand and competitors. If you can't find mentions for your category or niche. I guarantee people are talking, are you listening?
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Twitter Karma

Twitter Karma gives you an easy view of who you are following on Twitter and who follows you back. This is a great way to make sure you're listening to everybody you can and that they're listening to you.
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This may be the most impressive, explanatory application out there. Showing people this site seems to solidify the ideas and show them the global, real time nature of the service. It also illustrates the challenge of monitoring for customer service.
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Tweeterboard aims to be a site that aggregates "conversation analytics" (though I think it under delivers on that promise). You can find a username and see how often it updates as well as some reputation information. It also shows who is talking to you and who you are talking to as well as showing the links that the user sends through the service.
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Twitterholic looks at the Twitter timeline and finds the top daily users. This is a good way to see who has influence and is active on the system.
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This service looks at the links that are being submitted through Twitter and ranks them by popularity. Note that the high use of TinyURLs (a URL shortening service) makes the links appear very vague and hamper the usefulness of this service.
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Terraminds Search

Terraminds allows you to search both the public timeline and users. The results are very fast and listed by recency.
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TweetVolume simply lets you see how often a term was mentioned on Twitter. The summation is displayed in clean bar graphs.
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Another timeline search, this one allows you to search by combining a term with a user. Results are available by RSS or direct link.
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Twitter Blocks

This visualization engine is built by Twitter. It allows you to surf the users based on who you're following and who their following. You can navigate as deep as you like and the interface makes it interesting and fun to do.
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Tomorrow I'll go through ways that different types of companies can use Twitter for customer service. I'm planning to include IT services, CPG, B2B and retail. If you have another industry that you would be interested in seeing me cover please email me or leave a comment on this post.

Are you listening to micromedia outlets like this in your company? Why or why not?

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The bleeding edge: QR codes

img.pngAlthough QR (quick response) codes have been around since the mid-90s in Japan (born from manufacturing), they have only recently come into the mainstream consumer's focus. Japanese mobile consumers are using these codes along with special software and their phone's camera to shortcut having to type information into a mobile browser. (The QR code to the right is the URL for this blog in QR symbology.)

These codes are creeping up online, in magazines and newspapers and even on TV to allow users to quickly jump to their website or share a host of other information. All a person has to do is point their phone at the code and it knows what to do, taking the user to the end destination. See for yourself and create one using this generator.

Realistically, the success rate of something like this in the US is going to be equally proportional to the number of US mobile subscribers who use mobile web. Right now that number is low (but growing). Without a support base of subscribers who find entering information into their phones difficult, this could go the way of the Cuecat.

Here is a video of it in action, you may not be able to read what it says, but you'll see how it works.

Competition is out there (see this post on Engadget) and although QR is an ISO standard, it is not a universally agreed upon convention. Interesting to note, there are also 3D versions of these codes which are capable of storing 1.8Mb of data. That could be a document, small music file or short video clip. Imagine the possibilities. Walk into a store, see a CD you like, scan the code and possibly listen to a clip of the track right there.

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Apple and the end of the PC era

Om Malik, Internet visionary and pontificator, posted a marvelous entry on his blog today. At the end of Steve Jobs' keynote address, he stated that from this point forward, Apple would drop the 'Computer' in 'Apple Computer Inc.' and henceforth be referred to as 'Apple Inc.'.

As Om states, this is Apple's final and resounding move to become a consumer electronics company and not a computer manufacturer. Other news sources and bloggers wondered where the *mac* part of Macworld has gone. Well, Apple has moved beyond the Mac. Far beyond hte Mac that we all think of today. But why does that have to be? This new iPhone device runs OSX, and does all of the major things that my Macbook Pro does. Maybe we just need to re-define what a Mac is and usher in this new era with more spectacular products and software to extend them to more and more users.

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Conill named multicultural agency of the year, Hispanic growth

Hispanic shop Conill in NYC was named Ad Age's multicultural agency of the year. Conill is a part of the Publicis Groupe family of agencies and has seen impressive growth.

Another Ad Age article from early December shows that Conill's growth is more the rule right now in the Hispanic agency world rather than the exception. US Agencies, according to Ad Age, have continued on double-digit growth as the realization of the importance of the Hispanic community is reaching companies.

Interesting items to note (from my own research):

  • Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority in the US
  • Hispanics consume a greater volume of information online than any other group
  • The typical online Hispanic is mid-20s and male (prime targeting demos)
  • Hispanic's use of technology is centered around communication and IM, e-mail and mobile technologies will reach them easier and more effectively

I could go on, but I'll follow up more on marketing to the Hispanic audience in a future series of posts.

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Macworld suspense building

What oh what will Steve Jobs announce tomorrow? Possibly one of the best strategies for building enough industry buzz to propel devices into the marketing stratosphere is the Jobs keynote. Everybody weighs in, everybody speculates but nobody knows anything until Steve says it himself.

Rumors include the long awaited video iPod, the iPhone, new iWork with spreadsheet, iTV, another very cryptically leaked mobile computer and everything in between. We'll all learn tomorrow at noon. I hope the stream actually works this year. If not I'll tune into the Engadget blog-cast.

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Marketing power

Lewis Green on Marketing Profs has a good article responding to a recent report by the Grizzard Performance Group showing that 62% of US consumers do not price comparison shop. The GPG study concludes that this is due to the convenience of purchase.

I, however, agree with Lewis' take on this. Consumers aren't price shopping because more products (through marketing) are selling an experience. Marketers understand that the intrinsic value of the product, it's meeting of social needs, the credibility of the product and company and, in the end, the convenience is part of this.

Marketing is a very powerful practice. Companies who get this and act responsibly will see much more success than companies using 20 year old techniques. New times, new technology, new consumers need new strategies and tactics.

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How consumers find packaged goods

A new study conducted by iCrossing shows the increasingly large import consumers are putting on search to find packaged goods. The bad part is that companies are late to recognize this and online ad spending is at only around 1% of the budget.

39% of US adults performed a search online according to the study. 20% of those search for CPGs monthly and 9% weekly. The demos are outstanding for companies as searchers are most likely well educated, wealthy, female and 35-44.

Another interesting thing to note is the amount of traffic going to brand sites directly. While 67% of users find information on a traditional search engine, 60% are using the brand sites for the same info. Surprisingly few consumers are using comparison shopping sites or other forms of product rating sites.

CPG companies need to re-evaluate in a media-agnostic manner where their consumers are finding out about them and invest in the web as soon as possible. Not all products are the same and the media mix will vary.

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Coca Cola launches online rewards program

Coke recently launched an online rewards program to capitalize on customer affinity to the brand. The site offers different options from their partners (Delta, Adidas, etc.) to redeem the points you earn.

A lot of big names are jumping on this bandwagon now (NASCAR and Pepsi have been doing it for some time). The key is keeping it relevant and timely. Nobody will remember these sites unless they can interact with them at least once a week (more if possible).  The audience is splintered already online, this will be just another username and password to remember if not done properly.

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