Twitter: Beyond Self-Promotion

In our recent blog post about the best ways to use Twitter for small businesses, we mentioned several uses of Twitter beyond pure advertising:

• Research
• Content curation
• Sharing Information with key target audiences
• Keeping an ear to the ground

Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published an article titled “50 Companies That Get Twitter — and 50 That Don’t.” The article looked at a use of Twitter that is an important element of the pure advertising we choose not to focus on, and yet has a much broader usefulness: customer communication. That communication can include responding to complaints, providing information about changes to the organization, and gathering customer feedback, as well as direct advertising.

HBR notes that Twitter “has the benefit of being the most transparent big social network today. It also encourages back-and-forth conversation, unlike Facebook which tends to be a broadcasting medium.” Because of this back-and-forth communication, HBR argues that Twitter is best suited among the social media platforms to display empathy to customers.

“In our view,” writes the article’s author Belinda Parmar, “empathy consists of three components: reassurance, authenticity, and emotional connection. Empathy goes beyond simply solving a problem. It involves making a customer feel valued. These qualities are quantifiable. While data analysis cannot tell us whether an individual tweet displays empathy, it can look in aggregate at how Twitter is being used by a firm and identify certain patterns of behavior in interactions between companies and their followers, and infer a degree of engagement.”

HBR’s study looked at 350,000 tweets from 300 different companies. We encourage you to read the full article to see the full list of the best 50 companies and worst 50 companies, but some of the behaviors of empathetic and un-empathetic tweeters included the following:

Empathetic:
• Avoid using repetitious stock phrases
• Interact with users
• Are gender neutral or reflect the gender of their audience

Un-Empathetic:
• Use Twitter as a broadcasting service for promotion or investor announcements
• Divert users to non-social channels (e.g. call centers)
• Ignore customer complaints

This analysis of customer communication through Twitter is a great example of why simply using a new form of engagement isn’t enough. You have to engage well. If you’re going to use Twitter to encourage communication with your customers, make sure you’re actually communicating — and in a way they appreciate—or your efforts could backfire.

What best practices are you incorporating through Twitter—and other online channels—to engage effectively with your target audiences?

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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