To Tweet or Not to Tweet: There's Really No Question


Whether you use Twitter to keep up with friends, market your brand or complain about another brand’s lousy service, the point is: You’re on it. And so are more than105 million other people, according to the Huffington Post. The good news is that brands are actually starting to get this whole “social media thing.” They’re finally allowing employees (if begrudgingly) to tweet and hang out on Facebook during office hours. It’s not that the boss has finally decided to introduce leisure time at work, of course. The hope is that employees plugged into social media outlets will lend the brand’s page or profile a real-world feel, a sense of coolness.

Some brands have actually pulled it off, too. Others, not so much. But there’s a lot you can learn from both.

Twitter has become a new frontier for frustrated customers who don’t want to go through the drag of calling an 800 number and getting lost in the phone-tree forest. Because Twitter is so immediate and public, many brands are polishing their social media skills to meet the needs of wired users.

Dell is one such brand. After noticing that customers with product issues were reaching out for help to the many Dell employees already on Twitter, the company decided to invest resources in its @DellCares account. Indirectly, the team now reaches between 350,000 and half a million Twitter users each week via retweets, and its resolution rate has climbed to 98 percent. (That’s an impressive turnaround for a company that got famously burned back in 2005 by Jeff Jarvis’ “Dell Hell” blog—a textbook case of what ignoring consumer complaints can mean in the age of social media.)

“We use Twitter in four main ways to connect with our customers,” Dell’s vp of social media and communities Manish Mehta told me. “To inform, sell, engage and support. Our goal is not to replace traditional support methods, but to be there for customers who wish to receive support through the social media channels they’re already on.”

It’s too bad not every company understands how smart using Twitter can be for things like this. United Airlines, it seems, hasn’t quite gotten the formula right. While @UnitedAirlines has more than 115,000 followers, the account appears to do little more than push promotions and respond to comments—the favorable ones.

That didn’t prove all that helpful to Marivic, a fellow publicist, when she had a problem with a flight she’d booked. Desperate for customer service help, she tweeted UA:

I get cancellations (I do, uncle’s a pilot for Continental) but for @UnitedAirlines to repeatedly cancel [my] flight?!?

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