Monday, April 18, 2011

Don't be socially unsociable

The many automation tools available to us create a double-edged sword that's difficult to wield safely.

When I first engaged with Twitter, I found a tool that would automatically follow-back those who follow me. Combined with another tool that followed followers of my followers, it was set up in minutes. I could sit back and watch my community of followers grow steadily as my 'bot' found others using the same tools and we'd increase mutual following in a kind of ratchet effect.

The trouble is, no one was actually reading the content being produced and, it seemed, no one had anything useful to say. I'm still getting Twitter accounts following me, sometimes with thousands of apparent followers, but no tweets, and no relationship with me.

This past week I've seen two further problems:

  1. I follow a man I've met in real life, a clear thinker about the future, who communicates frequently with interesting things to say. The trouble is, several times I've sent him either a private Twitter DM (direct message) or a public reply. And got silence in return.
  2. Also last week a friend told me of a very public Gloucestershire figure who's using a terrible automated tool on his Twitter account: whenever someone 'unfollows' a user of this tool, it automatically tweets to name-and-shame the individual who's stopped following ... 
How could publicly embarrassing your customer possibly be good for your relationship with that customer, or those looking on at the way you do customer service?! It's a bullying tactic and makes me think poorly of the individual concerned and the public sector organization he heads. I'm even less impressed when I learn that my friend stopped following because he'd sent several DM and public reply messages in the past, trying to engage in conversation and stopped following when he got silence!

Social media is about being social. Neither of the individuals behind these examples gets that: old school 'marketing' was about shouting more loudly and more creatively to try to get a message noticed. The Internet has changed the game and now it's about engaging in two-way interaction, using technology to listen and respond with what customers want; not brow-beating them into responding to what you have to say.

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