There are several companies, I love to hate, Microsoft, AT&T, Comcast, Sprint and Firestone to name a few. There are also companies I absolutely adore, Skype, Southwest Airlines, php|architect are all in that category. So it really chaps my ass when I have to say nice things about a company from the first list and it’s even worse when I have to say bad things about a company from the second list. However, I am always willing to give credit where credit is due.
Recently, I got tweets from two different companies. These were not twitterspam because they were in direct response to tweets I had made. However their approaches were totally opposite and honestly, opposite of what I would expect from each of the companies.
My buddy Fred Leo and I were discussing Comcast. Comcast, if you’ve been following closely, is in the first list, "Love to Hate". They are usually a pretty easy target. This time however, they caught me off guard. First, when I griped about their (now defunct) P2P Bill of rights, ComcastCares responded as he/she normally does with any mention of Comcast (and he/she posts a LOT) with a simple "We are working on it…". Kinda what you would expect and honestly, I was ready to just move on because I was just venting. However, they they surprised me. I got this tweet from Scott Westerman, a VP at Comcast asking me to email him.
So I did and to my great surprise (and consternation, see the part about the two lists above) he emailed me back! He actually encouraged me to keep talking to him. (Scott, I’m gonna write back, I swear, just gotta get over the shock) See, up to this point, my interaction with Comcast has been mainly through their technical support personnel. (Let’s just say it was less than stellar and move on.) But now they not only have someone who is monitoring twitter on a regular basis but someone in upper management has a real clue. (Scott, I hope I’m not killing our friendship by calling you out here) It’s really unusual for a company to have clueful upper management but to be clueful and be on my "Love To Hate" list is unheard of. So it is with great chagrin that I move Comcast off my "Love to hate" list, at least temporarily. Let’s see how things go. (oh and just so you know, it’s not Scott’s job to monitor twitter, he’s one of the rare breed of "upper management who loves technology". I wish more companies would hire/foster these types.)
ComcastCares offers sympathy and help. Scott, offered dialog. He didn’t offer to fix anything but honestly, I would have been suspicious if he had. However he did offer to listen. When was the last time you got an email from a company on your "love to hate" list offering to listen to your grievances?
I love SWA, seriously. I fly a lot and when they go where I’m going, I always fly SWA. I even like the new boarding procedures. SWA has long been on my "Love to Love" list. So I was pleasantly surprised when I got this tweet from them when me and my buddy Eli White (you know, the guy from digg.com?) were discussing airlines. It’s nice and polite, kind of like Comcastcares. However, if start reading tweets from ComcastCares and from SouthwestAir you quickly notice a pattern. ComcastCares, more often than not offers to help, offers information, offers insight into the company SouthwestAir offers pleasantries. "Hope you give us another chance" is about as deep and helpful as it gets. Honestly, with a free week and a case of RedBull, I could probably write a bot that could do this. (I have no idea if this is a bot or not. I don’t even know if this is an "official" representative of SWA.)
This, IMHO, is the absolute wrong way to use twitter. You may make people feel better for a second but after they realize that your not really listening, your just talking at them, people will begin to understand. SWA, if you really want to get Eli to switch over, give him a reason to switch. Actually talk to him, find out why he doesn’t fly LUV and figure out what you can do to solve the problem. You guys/gals are so creative in other areas, it’s hard for me to believe that this is your best effort on twitter. And don’t just do it for A-List bloggers, do it for everyone! (Not that I’m an A-List blogger, I’m sure that’s not why Scott contacted me…I’m so far down the long tail that they ran out of letters and had to switch to numbers to describe me.)
I won’t be removing SWA from my "Love to Love" list any time soon because they do a lot of things right. However, we can all learn from their (bad) example. If you are going to try to engage the twitter market, talk to them, not just at them.
I talk about how companies should and should not use twitter in my report "Twitter for Marketers" and I’m going to have to update it now to include this case study. Comcast, get it because they have ComcastCares and you get they idea that they might actually care. They get bonus points for having at least one VP who understands that twitter is just a conversation starter, its not the conversation. SWA does not get it because even though they are monitoring twitter, they are not actually using it to make a difference. They are just handing out "I’m Sorry", "Hope you’ll give us another chance" or "Hey! That’s Great" on a good blog post. They are not engaging their customers in a conversation. As Joe Jaffe is quick to point out, marketing is now a conversation and they need to "join the conversation".
Until Next time,