The Tweet is Mightier than the Sword

I’ve been reading a lot about how Twitter_logo_header is really a great tool for business.  It makes it easy for businesses to engage in dialogue with their customers.  It provides real-time market research and competitive intelligence information.  It opens up opportunities for on-the-spot marketing, sales, and service activity.  Monitor the Twittersphere, and respond to every mention of your business or product.  What better time to engage your customer than when he or she is already talking about you?

But on the other hand, if a business has some flaws, made some mistakes, employed some questionable people, provided shoddy product or service, or otherwise failed to live up to a customer’s expectation, it should not be a surprise to find angry, pointed, and downright nasty tweets on the subject speeding around the globe.

This scenario, coupled with the fact that 76% of all consumers do not believe that companies tell the truth in their advertising, but that 78% do trust the recommendations of other people (source: Yankelovich, Inc.), does not paint a rosy picture for businesses that are struggling to provide positive customer experiences.  The offended party tweets, and 22 million monthly Twitter visitors have the opportunity to see how poorly the business has performed.  You get enough of those kinds of tweets, and people are going to stay away in droves!

Thus far, I’ve been speaking about tweets containing legitimate complaints about a company or their policies / procedures / execution.  But what about the lunatic fringe?  This is the Internet we’re talking about here.  What of the fabricated smear campaigns, vengefully created by some scorned employee or rejected suitor?  In the Twittersphere, everything looks like a fact!  Businesses must be vigilant in protecting their reputations, but given the public’s propensity for believing their peers over businesses, this is a tough battle to fight.

In my view, the best defense is a strong offense.  Businesses need to establish themselves on Twitter, and take the initiative to share useful information and address customer concerns – in other words, become an active and positive member of the community.  Once you’ve established a good reputation on Twitter, you will have built some protection against the occasional tweets of anger.

— Chuck Dennis  (follow me on Twitter @AngryCustomer)

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