Twitter Threats and Negotiations

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The Age of Twitter is upon us. All hail the all mighty and powerful Twitter! But also, the age of innocence is gone. There are spammers galore, people who are “social media experts” who have only 8 tweets to their name, and really attractive and scantily clad women who earned $1500 in just 1 day of work. Wonder how they do that…? I really like those people who have 10,000+ followers, have only been on Twitter a few days, but, coincidentally, also are following 10,000+ people. Wonder how they are able to even engage in a normal conversation on Twitter…they probably aren’t. Anyway…

Since mainstream media now fully endorsing or at least doing a great job of marketing Twitter’s power, it is now a force to be reckoned with. As more and more people are talking about it, those who are not using it are starting to feel left out, those who have been using it for a while are already trying to find the next best thing, or are diving much deeper into the analysis and psychology of those on Twitter. The bottom line is, the user base is growing beyond us early adopters (and I can barely even call myself that). Oh, by the way, you can follow me here: @hightechdad.

But now, the dark side of Twitter is starting to rear its ugly head, and those of us who are now making a living through the use of Social Media need to be prepared with how to deal with some new evils, specifically Twitter Threats and subsequent Negotiations.

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Let’s dive into these two items.

Twitter Threats

Part of my day job is to monitor the Twittersphere for people saying anything about the company I work for. It’s my intention to act as liaison and a buffer between customers/prospects and our internal organization and departments. I tweet about the industry we are in, about interesting articles I have read in the space, post links to blog articles I have written and generally spread intelligence outward from the company. I also watch for people with questions or problems with our service.

Just last week, I encountered an example that I wanted to share. I found someone having some issues with a charge on their credit card and that they were upset about it. I engaged in a quick dialog (see how to do this in the Twitter Negotiations section below) and got the information over to our billing and services departments.

All was just fine, or so I assumed. Then I got a question from our Billing Department manager, asking me flat out:

“Is the threat of a negative Tweet sufficient grounds for us to give a customer a free ride?”

As I’m the official Twitter Policy Maker, I had to take a stance that would work for our company, yet be fair (hopefully) to the end users as well (again, see the Negotiations section). You have to be careful when threatened over Twitter. If you take the road to respond publicly, you have to watch what you write as it could be used against you. If you work things offline, you can do more, with more than 140 characters.

The problem here, as with discussions of money or service or anything frustrating for that matter, the dialog can get a bit sour. At one point, this particular customer threatened to “tweet about it” – the TWITTER THREAT – unless things went their way.

Let’s set things straight, companies will ALWAYS receive negative commentary in one form or another: word-of-mouth, articles, reviews, blog posts, and now Tweets. There is no real way to stop negative or bad publicity from getting out. You only can make best efforts to control it, respond to it in a helpful way, and pray that it just gets buried under all of the other clutter out there.

Twitter seems to be much more positive in nature, with “followfriday,” people helping people, conversations with random act of kindness, promotions of other peoples’ content or ideas via a “retweet”.

Another common type of “Twitter Threat” is the “I’m really pissed off right now at XYZ, and I’m venting so listen to me” Tweet. This is where the individual tweets about a product or company or something that is really frustrating them right at that moment. As a company, you MUST pay attention to these “threats” as they can quickly become a much larger problem. I have done this with mixed and sometimes no results.

Through experience, I have found that many people who tweet out something that they are upset about, frequently follow up with some sort of a lengthier blog post describing their feelings. 140 characters is not much to talk about one’s frustration. Also, depending on if or how you interact with this individual can often change the nature, length and language of the subsequent blog post.

My own personal experience as an “angry Twitterer.” – I actually tried this a last year as I became frustrated about some customer service, or lack thereof, that I received from Tivo. I started with a Tweet (“Anyone have contacts at Tivo? I’m a pretty frustrated soon to be ex-customer. I did lots of beta testing with them and now getting dingedposted on 5.27.08) after my conversation with the Tivo Customer Service went south and then followed up with this blog post. By the way, nobody from Tivo EVER responded to me, despite several other tweets later on as well (here, here and here).

What a person tweets about will really help you determine if they will follow up with something longer, either a tirade on Twitter or a blog post that is much more visible. Because of the way search engines index blog posts, and the fact that there are more keywords and content in a blog post, you are more likely to come across a web page than a tweet if you type in “Product XYZ Sucks” into Google.

However, depending on how you respond to a Twitter Threat will really determine your fate.

Twitter Negotiations

Absolutely no negotiations over Twitter – that is the policy that I have outlined for the company I work for. There are many reasons for me to say this:

  1. Not enough words – at 140 characters, you can’t truly express yourself
  2. To many watchers – if you engage in a public negotiation, others, who may or may not have the same problem, may jump in, further exacerbating the issue potentially
  3. No easy way to resolve – at some point, you need to move the discussion elsewhere
  4. Get of of hand easily – because Twitter is so fast and easy, and there is no “5 second delay”, a Twitter conversation can easily go over the edge with little effort
  5. No Authenticity – unfortunately there is no real way (yet) to absolutely confirm the identity of the person your are tweeting with.

If you have no other choice and are forced to do negotiations over Twitter, be polite, courteous, helpful and agreeable. People will be judging you or your company by how you respond to an agitated person.

If you do encounter a situation where someone has made a Twitter Threat or seems to be heading down the direction of ranting about your product or service, here are some steps that I recommend you take lessen the negative PR that you may get:
  • Identify yourself“I’m with ABC Company” – this sets the stage immediately and shows the end user that you are there and representing the company. Also, if future searches on your company, your Twitter name will come up as a company employee. Note: there are other ways to do the keyword insertion (for searches) – see Take the Conversation Offline below.
  • ApologizeSorry that you are having issues.” – don’t confirm that there is a problem with your product or service. Simply say that you are sorry that they are having some troubles. You don’t have enough space to troubleshoot or refer to the product even. Keep it very high level.
  • Take the Conversation Offline“Could you email me details to name AT companyname.com” – This is one of the most critical things to do and by putting this line into your tweet, helps with a few things. For one, it’s another “company name” keyword. If you do this, you don’t necessarily have to do the first bullet above (unless the company name and email don’t match up well). People on Twitter sometimes like to hide behind their screen name. By offering your email, you basically are opening up a direct, personal and private line of communications with them. Also, an email lets the user get all of their venting out in something longer than 140 characters. You can help them troubleshoot issues, ask questions and basically get to know them a bit better as well. Lastly, you capture their email address which can be helpful if you are tracking your customers’ cases in a CRM or if you want to follow up in the future.
  • Follow up on Twitter – [after resolution] – “I hope that everything is working out for you now with ABC Company/Product Name.” Once you believe that the issue has been handled to the best of your ability and your customer is happy, be sure that you follow up with them on Twitter. It helps to close the loop between Twitter and “off-line” methodologies. It also helps with searches for your company or product name, in that searches will show positive tweets as well.
  • Documentation – If you have a knowledgebase or CRM system, try your best to get the issue into a system where you can reference it again. You can also find out if a particular individual “tends” to do lots of Twitter chatter or complain a lot as well as follow up with them later.

All in all, Twitter as a micro-blogging, customer service and outreach tool is starting become fully established now. It is critical for companies to spend a bit of time and effort around crafting and implementing a “Twitter Strategy” for handling customers support, sales, product education and community building. There are several companies that are doing this pretty well already, and if one of those companies is your competition, designing a strategy is truly time well spent.

HTD Says: Twitter is now main-stream so companies are well advised to act accordingly. Learn how to respond to Twitter Threats and ensure that your negotiations are successful.

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11 Responses

  1. MIke, great insight and well written. I'd love for you to write a techno-article for the Market Barometer. Would have to be real estate oriented though.

  2. MIke, great insight and well written. I'd love for you to write a techno-article for the Market Barometer. Would have to be real estate oriented though.

  3. Thanks Judith. Glad that you liked the article. Why don't you fill out either the Contact or Vendor form with some details about what type of article you are thinking about.

  4. Thanks Judith. Glad that you liked the article. Why don't you fill out either the Contact or Vendor form with some details about what type of article you are thinking about.

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    —v

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    —v

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