Should All Customers Be Treated Equally?

Equality
Photo cred: saxarocks

I had an poor experience with a printing service recently.  After speaking to their customer service, I was still very unhappy.

Nutshell: They said there was nothing that they could do, and if I wanted to cancel my order, I’d have to pay a cancellation fee.

Being very frustrated, I tweeted a complaint about my poor experience with the company (not something I’m necessarily proud of, but that’s for another post).

After doing so, I was contacted on twitter by someone who asked me to email them.

So I did… and they went above and beyond to provide the best possible customer service they realistically could.  They were very respectful, explained the situation, and offered to waive the cancellation fee.  They even offered a discount on my next order.

Now how could you go from not being able to do anything, and even punishing me with a fee, to giving me everything I asked for and more?!

Many “experts” advise companies to approach every community differently based on their needs.  I’m going to go ahead and say that when it comes to customer service, treat every community and customer equally, regardless of their influence.

What do you make of this?  Should companies provide better service for some communities over others?

Take it further…if a customer is a brand evangelist of yours, should you provide them with more benefits?  I’ve always thought it a good idea to take care of your most loyal customers, but is it worth the risk of alienating your average customer?

7 Twitter Expectations and Predictions

twittercloudsTwitter hasn’t given us much.  We got a new homepage annnnd that’s about it.  So it’s pretty interesting that they’ve recently been announcing a few new features on the way.  They’re no small endeavor either.

Here are some additions that you can (officially) be expecting:

1. Official Retweets: Twitter has announced Phase 1 of their “Project Retweet”.  To this point “retweets” or the reposting of someone else’s tweet has been a feature created by users and has not been officially supported by Twitter.  Apparently, that’s going to change.  There are many implications of this project, so check out the article.

2. Premium Accounts: Don’t let the recent hoax fool you, twitter is planning to offer premium accounts.   Mashable Editor Ben Parr was able to confirm that premium accounts are indeed coming but we might not be seeing them for a while.  As expected, the first premium accounts will be targeted at businesses.

3. Location Based Tweets: Currently, users can put in their location in their profile. The new location feature will allow users to switch on an option that will read your longitude and latititude and so others can see exactly where you’re tweeting from.  The potential implications of this addition are huge! Anything from news, to closer integration with other location focused apps like foursquare to well, some darker implications and issues that will inevitably occur.  Regardless, things should get interesting.

Here are some features I’m predicting they’ll add soon:

4. Spam Killer: It’s getting bad. Now spammers learned that they don’t even need me to follow them in order to get their message out.  They can send @ replies, and some even use bots to automatically reply to, or retweet, anyone that uses specific keywords.  Something should be done, and I think Twitter knows that.

5. Official Replies: They’re making retweets official, why not replies as well?  Much like retweets, a @reply is a twitter feature created by users.  Twitter has officially recognized their value and created a replies link on the homepage, but I think they’ll officially integrate it into the system. Edit: To clarify, I mean that it will be built into the system.

6. A Big Acquisition: This is completely speculative, but I think Twitter is going to be making some purchases.  They’ve got a truckload of funding, with little to spend it on.  They openly stated in article about premium accounts, that they were thinking about buying friendfeed before facebook beat them to the punch.  Why would they want to acquire other companies? I’d say functionality.  We’ll see Twitter start to buy the companies that provide the most valuable functionality…probably 3rd party twitter apps. Possibly one of the big desktop apps?

7. Your Predictions: What do you think Twitter will do next? I’ll add some of your predictions here.

  1. Officially integrated hashtags: “an evolution of the hashtags, making it easier for tweeters to follow popular trends” –Rich Pulvino
  2. Less down time: “Server stability.” –Danny Brown
  3. Analytics and real-time search: Figuring out how to capture, parse and report data about user demographics and what users are sharing and discussing would be something any business would like access to. –Amy Mengel
  4. BUY FOURSQUARE: Seems incredibly obvious to me…and would be a great match for both companies. –Stuart Foster

3 Methods to Approach Twitter Following

hjh
Photo cred: Fi and He

To follow or to not follow… to follow a lot or to follow a little… to follow back or to follow first… these are the tough questions we face on Twitter.

I’ve spoken about what makes others follow to help you figure out a legitimate method to gain followers. Now I’d like to help you decide how YOU should follow by narrowing it down to three very broad methods.

There’s no wrong answer…it depends on your goals. Why are you on Twitter?

Here are three LEGITIMATE methods to approach twitter following. You decide which one works best for you…

1. Selective Following

Selective followers don’t follow very many people.  They focus on their “ratio”, or following a less number of people than the number that follows them.  Usually, they only follow the people that they think can help them reach their goals, or that they interact with very regularly.  They probably follow around 500 people tops (rough estimate).

  • High level of first impression credibility. “If that many people want to follow that person, he/she must be awesome!”
  • Low spam. Spammers can’t direct message them.  Most spammers look for auto-followers.
  • Easier to monitor stream and interact. Following and interacting with 500 people is a lot easier than keeping up with 10,000 people.

Examples: Jacob Morgan, Eric Berto, Brett Petersel

Note: There has been a recent trend in people unfollowing a lot of people, so they may look like a selective follower now when in reality, they haven’t been to this point.

2. Social Following

These tweeps follow most people back, but won’t auto-follow.  They’ll probably follow you if you join in their conversations at least a little bit.  They don’t want to cut anyone out of their network, but they won’t just go following anyone.  You have to be relevant.

  • Still low spam. Although they may be tricked here and there.
  • Access to new networks. Their free following mentality will prevent them from keeping their “fishbowl”, or their immediate network too small…or they’ll gain access to other “fishbowls”.
  • Utilizes groups. Once they follow more than 500 people, it becomes very hard to keep track of everyone.  Apps like Seesmic Desktop will allow them to create groups so they can keep track of the people the don’t want to lose in the stream.

Examples: Stuart Foster, Dave Fleet, Beth Harte

3. Opportunistic Following

These guys or gals will follow everyone back, and then some. They’re on twitter to create as big of a network as possible.  They may still be interested in creating relationships, but they want to make sure every message they put out reaches as many eyes as possible.

  • Uses auto-follow. They use a tool like socialtoo or tweetlater to automatically follow back anyone who follows them (and might automatically unfollow those who unfollow them). One downside is this makes them extremely susceptible to spam.
  • Relies on groups, replies and DMs for interaction. If you’re not in one of their groups, don’t expect them to read your normal public tweets.  They follow so many people that they don’t even look at their regular stream.
  • High response rate. The large number of followers they’ve gained creates a larger audience for their message to reach.  They’ll get a lot of replies and retweets.

Example: Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan (although he recently stopped auto follow), Calvin Lee

Note: simply following a lot of people won’t create a valuable network. You still need to provide value so that non spammers follow you too

If you’re curious, to this point, I’ve been a selective follower, but have recently decided to become a social follower, as I feel like my potential network is being limited by not following as many people.  It’s all about figuring out what works best for you.  I’ll let you know how it works for me.

How do you follow?

Techcrunch and Twitter Documents: Was it Ethical? Was it Smart?

Photo cred: Marcin Wichary
Photo cred: Marcin Wichary

This is a collaborative post with myself and Sonny Gill. Both with slightly differing views on the topic, we’ve discussed the different sides of the issue and I’m personally torn, while Sonny is more confident of his stance.  In the spirit of a great collaborative post by Lauren Fernandez and David Mullen on a different issue, we’ve decided to take the same approach and work together to provide a thorough view of both sides of this issue.

If you haven’t heard about what’s going on, Michael Arrington, yesterday, claimed to have been sent 310 documents that were stolen by a hacker from Twitter including phone records, financial projections and more.  Arrington and TechCrunch then, after mulling it over, decided to post some of these documents. At the time of writing this post, they’ve only posted the Twitter TV Show document and the financial projection document.

Ethics Argument

For:

  • Techcrunch didn’t steal the information, the hacker did…is it not their responsibility to share newsworthy information that’s brought to their attention?
  • If the media never shared news that could hurt someone, the industry probably wouldn’t exist.  The most entertaining things seems to be news that someone doesn’t want you to share. Perhaps not ethical, but definitely a standard that has already been set.
  • They aren’t sharing any information that directly hurts anyone.  They specifically stated that they are not going to share some things, because it could be embarrassing for some individuals.
  • Controversial, risqué moves have always deemed great viewership and typically an increase in subscriptions and traffic. Why not please their numbers, as well as their advertisers?
  • Twitter is clearly still the talk of the town in the tech sector and now mainstream. If you were in TechCrunch’s shoes, would you leverage this power to drive even more eyes to your site, regardless if it could quite possibly hurt a platform that thousands flock to everyday?

Against:

  • This content was stolen.  It wasn’t shared willingly, it wasn’t leaked by an insider, it was taken against Twitter’s will.
  • If you wouldn’t post content that is embarrassing for some individuals, how is posting content that could hurt the company, and therefore every employee and individual who has a share in the company, any better?
  • Being a leader in the tech industry, there comes a responsibility and candor that people in this bubble expect. Clearly, all of that was thrown out of the window with how these documents were treated and power abused.
  • There’s also a responsibility to advertisers, to uphold a certain core integrity to the content you publish.

Was it Smart?

For:

  • Arrington can milk this for all it’s worth, and so far it’s worth hundreds of comments, and a great deal of traffic.  It’s also created multiple links to TechCrunch from mainstream media like the New York Times.
  • Looks like TechCrunch and Twitter are working together on this issue. Even more power for Michael and the crew over Twitter, and perhaps ‘special treatment’ on future feature releases, etc.
  • The tech bubble is abuzz and regardless of the outcome, everybody will forget it in a few weeks.
  • Maybe TechCrunch is showing Twitter some tough love to get their act together security wise, as they continue to grow their user base.

Against:

  • Advertisers could very well bow out and take their spend to more respectable, ethical blogs.
  • You’ve turned your tech savvy community into trolls who are looking for the next controversial hit of a post.
  • You’re quickly becoming the TMZ of the tech world. Loss of respect will send some readers elsewhere.
  • You could burn a bridge to a very valuable source of news, Twitter. Now, Twitter may actually go out of their way, to give their news to someone else before you.
  • By directing more attention to the ethics issue of posting the documents, you get more traffic, but also a lot more heat.  They could have just posted the information, like they would with any other story for which they get “tipped off”.

Switch to Seesmic Desktop…Now.

Seesmic DesktopFor the longest time, Tweetdeck was my Twitter application of choice. Those days are now long gone. With my new job, I realized I was going to need a service that allowed me to maintain multiple accounts. I was disappointed since I was under the impression that no other apps compared to tweetdeck, but it was a sacrifice I was going to have to make.

I decided to try out Seesmic Desktop as I was a follower of @loic for some time and heard some good things about the app. Goodbye Tweetdeck.

Seesmic offers everything that Tweedeck offers and then some. Here are a few things that have made me a Seesmic Desktop evangelist

  1. Customer Service.  First and foremost, the @askseesmic twitter account was enough to make me switch.  I would constantly have issues with Tweetdeck, complain about it on Twitter (naturally) and the only responses I would get were from other people facing similar issues.  When starting to use Seesmic Desktop, I had a lot of questions, and a couple issues.  Not a minute after I said something on Twitter @askseesmic responded and answered my questions.  Afterwards, any time I had a question, I sent a reply to @askseesmic and received a prompt, helpful response.  This, to me, is invaluable.
  2. Prompt Updates.  I don’t know if the Tweetdeck creators have been listening at all, but there is an array of issues with the application that have gone unfixed for months…where are the updates?  Since starting to use Seesmic Desktop less than a month ago, there have already been updates fixing issues and adding features that customers have been asking for. Is it perfect yet? No…but I guarantee you that they will constantly be working to make it better.
  3. Functionality. Aside from basic things actually working, like adding people to groups, there are a number of features that makes Seesmic Desktop my favorite Twitter app.  Danny Brown lists a bunch here.  For me, the big ones are multiple accounts, smoother/easily organized columns, ability to save searches and a few more of “the little things”.

Unless Tweetdeck starts listening and responding accordingly, they are going to lose all of their momentum.  Seesmic has already begun to cut away at it.  Until Tweetdeck does something, switch to Seesmic Desktop…now. You’ll thank me later.

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The Mainstreamification of Twitter

oprahThe big discussion lately has been the recent “mainstreamification” of Twitter as more celebrities start to use the application and are bringing their fan base with them.  Some people are welcoming of these new trends, others are worried/irritated.  The question isn’t “is twitter changing?”, its “how is it changing and will it be for better or worse?” Jeremiah Owyang provides some very interesting predictions worth checking out. Here’s what I think…

First off, twitter isn’t going to change very much on an individual level.  Twitter is opt in so you connect with who you want to connect with, you follow who you want to follow.  It doesn’t matter if there’s a million people or 100 million people, how old they are or what they’re interested in.  The only people that will be affected on an individual level are the big names that are used to being the “who’s who” of twitter.  The internet celebrities that rank as the most popular twitter users have, and will continue to give up their popularity titles to mainstream celebrities like Ashton.

The real changes will be found on a macro level. The service itself will change as Twitter attempts to appeal to this mainstream market and creates a monetization plan.  As the user base gets bigger, so does the range of features that people and businesses require.  We’ve already seen this happen with Myspace and Facebook.  Many once loyal users are unhappy with how “busy” these sites have become as they continue to lose focus on their original purpose.

Another issue has been the disapproval of how celebrities are using social media.  Some view Ashton’s race with CNN to 1 million followers as a publicity stunt that created a lot of buzz for himself and for twitter, and will be quickly forgotten.  Oprah built up 40 thousand followers before even posting a tweet.  In a community that values conversation and community, these are hardly the type practices that create real, valuable relationships. The issue is that many of these people are holding celebrities to the same accountability standards that we hold businesses on Twitter. While celebrities and business might seek similar benefits from social media, celebrities can’t (because of scale) and just don’t need to connect with their followers in the same way we expect businesses to.  If you’re interested in reading more on this issue, there’s a great conversation going on at Beth Harte’s blog.

Twitter is going through a time of change.  That is for sure.  When people see celebrities using Twitter, they stop thinking “I don’t get the point of Twitter” and start thinking “Am I missing out by not being on Twitter?”  More people are going to continue to give Twitter a chance and the Twitter team will try to convert them into regular users.  How that will change the twitter user experience is to be seen.  Regardless, people and businesses will continue to connect and communicate wherever their communities exist.

Edit: Just remembered an additional point.  One positive change for businesses is that as Twitter becomes more popular, the chance that their audience is present on Twitter increases, creating more opportunities.  At the same time, users aren’t going to follow your company just because you were the first/only one in your industry to join twitter anymore.  The mere fact that your business is using Twitter will become less interesting and you’re really going to have to provide value and connect on Twitter if you’d like your audience to follow you.

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