Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

The Red Cross owns up to a Twitter mistake

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

From The Mistake Bank:

I’m sure Gail McGovern, the Red Cross CEO, was seeing red when this Tweet stream came out in mid-February. An honest mistake, by all accounts – a young staffer had gotten tripped up between a personal and business account using the Twitter application Hootsuite.

This faux pas provided a few seconds of laughter, but the response by the Red Cross will linger. They owned up to the mistake and showed a sense of humor. From the Red Cross’ blog post after the tweet went viral:

We realized our honest mistake (the Tweeter was not drunk) and deleted the above Tweet. We all know that it’s impossible to really delete a tweet like this, so we acknowledged our mistake:
In the meantime we found so many of you to be sympathetic and understanding.  While we’re a 130 year old humanitarian organization, we’re also made of up human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good.

Thanks to the Red Cross for showing that an embarrassing mistake can be handled with grace and humor!

(Hat tip Anne D. Gallaher)

Twitter’s lousy memory

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

When you tweet something, it’s small, ephemeral. It makes sense that it would vanish like a puff of smoke. After all, aren’t tweets largely pointless babble anyway?

But what if you want to look back at what you said, or, better yet, search for something you tweeted?

Good luck.

For all its benefits and delights, Twitter has a lousy memory. Here’s an example:

I searched for all my tweets with the word “narrative” in them. Twitter found:
twitter search narrative


Here’s the same search on Friendfeed (which collects my tweets as well as other utterances from my blog, Delicious, etc.):
friendfeed search narrative

Nine results, stretching back to March.

I did a brute-force look for the “narrative” tweets on Twitter, by displaying my profile and pressing “more” at the bottom of the page repeatedly. They’re all there. Why didn’t search find them? Your guess is as good as mine.

So why would you need to search back through your own tweetstream? Well, for one, I like to use Twitter for link-sharing. Finding and sharing an article I like is a really fun part of the service. But sometimes after sharing a link, I find I want to explore it more, perhaps by writing a blog post about it.

But if I can’t find it easily, I can’t do it. I’m considering using Delicious for all that stuff, feeding it through Friendfeed, and auto-tweeting it from there. It’ll work fine, but seems a bit convoluted, doesn’t it?

Customers are talking: Dell acts on Twitter product feedback

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I was interested in this post from the NY Times Bits blog: “Dell Says It Has Earned $3 Million From Twitter.” Selling, after all, is one of the Five Archetypal Business Twitter Strategies.

But I was even more interested when I read this part of the post, almost a throwaway near the end:

Dell heard on Twitter that customers thought the apostrophe and return keys were too close together on the Dell Mini 9 laptop and fixed the problem on the Dell Mini 10. Now, the Dell Mini product development team is asking around on Twitter for new ideas for the next generation of the computer.

This is important, and it’s timely because it comes when Twitter users are coming under a lot of criticism for their, say, shallowness (examples here and here and here).

To 99.999% of people, someone complaining about the apostrophe and return keys on the Dell Mini 9 is worthless trivia. For Dell, that trivia–which is easy to find among the millions of Tweets posted daily–is extremely important. If it coalesces into a pattern, Dell engineers have something to use, besides gut feel or experience, to guide their product development decisions.

The very nature of Twitter (its simplicity, brevity and noisiness) is what frees people to post “trivia” like “Dell Inspiron Mini 9 keyboard is a little tight.” It takes a few seconds to get something like that off your chest–comments that, before Twitter, were not worth speaking in public. Now they are.

For companies like Dell, who listen to and act on these utterances, that is a big asset. For people who complain about Twitter’s shallowness, you are free to tune out.

“The Five Business Archetypal Twitter Strategies” is now available in Dutch!

Friday, June 5th, 2009

I’m honored (and amused) that Frislicht has translated my post “The 5 Archetypal Business Twitter Strategies” into Dutch. If you feel more fluent in that language, or you’d like to check it out anyway, here’s the link.

Dank u wel, Frislicht folks!

The Five Archetypal Business Twitter Strategies

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Twitter continues to fascinate. As this general-purpose tool becomes more widespread, lots of ways for business to use it are emerging. Most businesses use some combination of these five archetypal strategies:

1. Promote. This goes without saying and is the easiest way to use Twitter. “Hey, we have a new product coming out! (link)” “Don’t forget to watch our Super Bowl ad (link).” etc. The jury is out as to whether this type of promotion is useful or simply washed away in the mass of Twitter noise–although if you have a strong following, the right product at the right moment, and can get the right people to tweet about you, it’s a beautiful thing. Examples: everybody.

2. Sell. I happened to get into a discussion on Twitter about sleep apnea. Right away a guy chimed in with a couple of questions. When I mentioned that I would love a particular type of product to help my condition, he let me know that such a product existed, how to find out more information on it, and (of course) how to order it. I bought the product pretty soon thereafter, through his referral. If you can identify users for your product by searching for tweets about it, you can find customers. Examples: The Sleep Apnea guy, Dell.

3. Care. If people are having trouble with your product and services, and they tweet about it, you can locate those tweets, intervene and solve the problem. If you’re lucky, the customer will tweet about how well you solved her issue. This strategy surprised me when it emerged–now I am surprised that it is still so rarely practiced. Examples: Comcast, EasyJet.

4. Converse. “User-centered innovation” may be more theory than reality today, but some companies are using Twitter to engage in real dialogues about what products they should feature or how their services should operate. The polling capability of Twitter is excellent for this purpose. Example: Best Buy. [Note: a great use of polling on Twitter is Andrew McAfee's "andyasks" project; here are some #andyasks results.]

5. Expose. Some companies are deciding that they can differentiate by humanizing themselves–and this means becoming more transparent. If people know that people–not just information systems, buildings and capital structures–work there, customers will want to buy from them. Twitter is a great way to open up your company; because it is inherently an individual medium, the personalities of the individuals who tweet come through. Be careful, though: if your tweeters are not representative of your company’s true culture, the disconnect will be apparent. Example: Zappos.

I need your help here. Are there other primary strategies? Are there other good examples for each? Please weigh in by leaving a comment.

Dealing with what customers tell you online

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Earlier this week, I posted on ways businesses can monitor what’s being said about them in various social media outlets. Perhaps in a challenge to myself, I promised a follow-up dealing with what businesses can do with this information. Finally, egged on by Amber and David from Radian6, here it is.

Companies are getting good at quickly responding to, and engaging in, conversations that others start about their products. For example, Amber and David quickly submitted thoughtful, interesting comments to my post. Dell is also very responsive, and so is Comcast. Your company should participate in these conversations as these companies do. You should be authentic and respectful and all that. Many social media consultants can help you do this. I am after something else.

Specifically this: it’s time to find useful, actionable patterns out of those gigabytes of chatter–Tweets, blog posts, comments–you’ve collected about your products, company, customer service from all these sources. And while these snippets may not follow a complete story format (i.e., “this happened, then this, then this”) per se, I treat them as stories and recommend using narrative sensemaking approaches to find the patterns.

For customer narratives, companies I’ve worked with have had success in finding deep customer values within these stories, using an exercise called emergent constructs. [Cynthia Kurtz's free e-book Working With Stories has been a critical resource to me.] By values I mean things customers find value in, or don’t find value in (or even find negative value in).

An example: I worked with a B2B online services company to help them determine what their customers valued/didn’t value in the industry segment the company operated in. We collected 50 or so stories from their customers, and ran the emergent constructs exercise with them to find the important customer values therein. They found that customers really liked responsive, personalized service, but didn’t like suppliers who appeared too small. They also didn’t have enough time so they valued time-savers of any kind. Plus they liked a supplier helping make them smarter, in other words extending their capability. They liked low prices, but were concerned that low price might indicate a supplier that wasn’t “industrial strength.”

These values, as you can see, aren’t straightforward to deal with. Anything the company did to enhance one value had some counter-effect. Amplifying a set of values might drive a customer segment away entirely. So they had to make hard decisions about things they were going to do and things they would do away with; customers they’d welcome, and customers they’d turn down. Once these difficult decisions were made, however, executing the plan wasn’t that difficult, and they could do it with confidence, given that they had a deep understanding of how customers really felt, grounded in the actual stories they told.

Sensemaking exercises like creating emergent constructs involve groups of people reading stories, answering questions, collaborating on meanings. Therefore, it’s difficult to do them with thousands or millions of transactions. How then do you narrow down the data? One simple way is to sample. Another way is to allow people who review the customer data to flag those that stand out in some way (perhaps using an Eureka button approach). Either way, gathering a bunch of stories and sending them through this process (see yesterday’s post for more on this) can illuminate very complex and nuanced issues for your company, products and brand, as illustrated above.

And once you have a grip on those, you’re prepared to use your existing decisionmaking processes to do something about them, and make real, vital improvements in your products and services.

Related posts:
Reading Between The Lines of Customer Stories
The Blackberry Storm/Twitter Project

Customers are talking: many ways small businesses can listen

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

I subscribe to Duct Tape Marketing’s RSS feed because, even though it occasionally tips toward the “carnival barker” end of the Bloggers’ Continuum, it regularly delivers important posts that I find value in.

And so it was today, when John Jantsch (DTM’s author) posted “Listening in a Digital Age.” Jantsch discussed how listening to customers has gotten more complicated since the internet showed up (true), and offered a set of tools to help manage the flow (becoming a torrent) of online feedback.

He mentioned Google Alerts and Twitter Search (free), and Buzzlogic, Radian6 and other paid listening tools. (He didn’t mention CoTweet; perhaps he hasn’t tried it yet.)

A good follow up on this post, in my opinion, could be to talk about how businesses should deal with what they learn from these listening sessions. In fact, that may be something I take a shot at soon.

A music affinity group emerges on Twitter

Monday, February 9th, 2009

One of the most fun things about messing around with Twitter is to see interesting things emerge. It’s such a general tool that it’s a lot like those college greens that architects leave without pathways, allowing students to develop their own patterns over time.

I’ve recently started seeing the emergence of a music affinity group on Twitter (one of many, probably). It occurred to me this is happening yesterday, when I got a follow from @peteyorn, a musician that I like but didn’t even know was on Twitter.

How he found me, I don’t know (perhaps Mr. Tweet does). Maybe it’s my connection with @francisten from West Indian Girl, or @kmueller62 of WXPN (or even @fotteson, a local bass player). Maybe it’s that I write about music a fair amount (including live Tweeting the My Morning Jacket New Year’s Eve concert or my musical crush on NOMO).

At any rate, I’ve gotten follows now from @madalynsklar, @talkmusicnow and @sxsw. You can see the pattern emerging. And I like it. I want to know what musicians and music fans are tweeting about. I’ll learn about new music & perhaps see a bit of the faces behind the records. It’ll be fun to see how this group evolves over time. (And if you’re a musician or music lover, give us a follow at @jmcaddell and I’ll follow back. You can join the conversation then.)

Just another way @twitter is changing how we interact and learn.

Customers are talking: the Blackberry Storm/Twitter project

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Like a lot of people, I’ve been trying to get a handle on what Twitter means for businesses. My professional interest is in finding unsolicited customer stories and making sense of them–wherever they are. In this, Twitter has a lot of promise. It’s easy to use, brief and spontaneous. So are customers using this forum to talk about products? I decided to find out.

My test case was the Blackberry Storm. It received an absolutely terrible review from David Pogue, the New York Times’ consumer-electronics columnist. It also had very good early sales numbers–500,000 units the first month of its release, according to the Wall Street Journal. The combination of these made it an irresistible subject to study: would the Twittersphere be flooded with posts from enraged buyers?

The project was made more interesting today, when the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled, “Bumpy Start for Blackberry Storm,” which referred to complaints of early Storm users (but not Pogue’s review), including this vibrant quote: “I found myself wanting to throw it in the ocean due to my frustration with its overall usability.” The article also referred to a release of firmware soon after launch intended to address some of the early complaints, particularly response time.

I used Twitter Search to look for messages containing “Blackberry Storm” and a happy or sad emoticon (there’s a button on the advanced search page that enables you to restrict searches this way). I looked at 88 English-language tweets going back to December 27. Here’s what I found:

The biggest surprise to me was: where were the complaints from users? While half the Tweets were from Storm users, as opposed to people commenting on the Storm, or thinking about it, only 4 out of 44 (9%) of the users’ tweets were negative, while 23 (52%) were positive.

(If you want to check out the searches I created for this project, they are here: happy search, sad search. Twitter Search has been acting funny the past few days–I’m only able to get one page of recent results, and can’t search farther back. I used an RSS feed of the search over a period of weeks to gather the entire list of 88,)

From a customers are talking perspective, this isn’t a terrible outcome at all for the Storm. Whether the firmware change made that much difference, or the Blackberry brand loyalists are immune to hardware glitches, or simply that devices like this aren’t perfect and users expect that–they are not saying this is a terrible device. Many are saying that they like it. If I’m Blackberry and Verizon, I’m not discouraged by the Storm’s initial reception.

By the way, the WSJ has already started to backtrack. On the web site, the article is now entitled, “Blackberry Storm Is Off To A Bit of a Bumpy Start.”

(Disclosure, I am a Verizon customer and a Blackberry 8830 user. If you think I am a shill for Verizon, please don’t make up your mind until you read this post, or this one.)