Where is best practice on Facebook and Twitter?

16 February 2011

I’ve been working with a client who is launching their social media presence and I thought it would be helpful to share some learning on what appears to be working best. Some of you may have read the article in the Times[1] which was suggesting to consumers that they use a company’s Twitter page to make a complaint if they have been frustrated with their regular customer services. You may therefore see an increase in your customer complaints on Twitter as the national media suggest trying this approach.
Having emphasized previously the importance of measuring your social media activity activity I thought that you might be interested to know how some global brands have measured up so far and what we can learn from this.
Here are some examples of how companies have launched their social media channels:
As a concierge service
Whilst some companies have embraced Twitter as a type of 24 hour concierge channel (such as the 5 star hotel chains e.g. Hyatt) I recommend that you think very carefully about how and if you really want to differentiate the customer service you offer on Twitter from that of other channels. Far better is to ensure that your processes on Twitter are integrated into your regular customer services operation.
Launch of exclusive promotions
Fairmont Hotels group launches Twitter only deals at specific times of the week which drives up their follower numbers and level of activity on the site. The Jet Blue airline offers “JetBlueCheeps” and United Airlines also has a dedicated Twitter site for promotional fares.
Prize draws and competitions are also powerful ways of driving up your Facebook fans and Twitter followers, however the key is to invite them to engage with you in such a way that they are awarded for sharing their interactions which will drive up the word of mouth impact and subsequent ROI. Virgin Atlantic has launched a number of competitions to engage with its Facebook fan base using a cabin crew character called Linda.
Cause related campaigns
If you look at Travel Republic they used the charity Children in Need to drive traffic to their page by offering to donate £25,000 if they managed to achieve 150,000 Facebook fans by a cut off date. Whilst they did not achieve their original target the campaign succeeded in achieving more than 40,000 fans and was able to bring substantial PR coverage in the travel press. They also galvanised partners to participate in a supporting video which helped to drive up the number of fans.
Flash mob events
Tmobile were able to secure millions of YouTube viewers with their Flash mob music adverts. The most famous ones were those carried out at Liverpool St Station in London and at Heathrow Terminal 5. In original YouTube style these type of events were then copied very quickly in other countries around the world by other companies and many passengers also posted their versions of these events adding to their viral impact. If you have never watched it, treat yourself, it’s likely to make you cry with happiness.
Use of Avatars
Whilst avatars are not unique and have been used since the early dot com days, in the mid nineties they are being used to build personality and interaction in social media channels across the travel industry. Cartoon character such as Harry Hotel are being used by brands such as Hotels4u. The key thing to remember when using such avatars is to play close attention to the gender profile and interest sets of your fans. A poor choice of avatar could alienate your active fan base, so it’s worth testing any avatars before launch.  
More than one Twitter or Facebook page?
Some companies chose to launch with more than one page for their business. If you take the example of Butlins they originally launched three Twitter sites. One site for deals, one for customer service and another generic page which has adopted Ludo the Dino as its character to engage with children. More than one page may be useful in times of any crisis where you have different audiences and purposes however there is a danger that you have too many competing channels and the resource required to maintain them is not sustainable. It is interesting to note that Butlins have now rationalised their sites.  To avoid fragmentation of your fan base it is sometimes better to start with one well maintained page which is fully supported.
How to measure best practice
By chance I came across a very interesting piece of research carried out by the UXAlliance called “Around the world in 140 characters”[2] which tested the customer service they received in 17 countries when using Twitter as a mystery shopper.
What was most interesting about this research was that almost 60% of the tweets were unanswered and only 13% were answered within 2 hours.
The research focused on the following aspects of the Twitter interaction:
1. Timeliness of the response
2. Relevance of the response to the original tweet
3. Consistency of the responses and “look and feel” of each brands’s site
4. Tone of voice and content of the tweet.
They focused on 10 of the Fortune 100 companies which are listed below in order of the scores they received. Toyota and Cisco received the best overall scores and BMW and Nokia scored worst.
- Toyota, Cisco, IBM, Sony, Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, HP. Nokia, BMW
The results suggest that even the most well known global brands are struggling to respond at all to Twitter enquiries and are still learning. Some were using their Twitter for PR purposes to broadcast updates whereas others had a distinctly more personal approach with names after each tweet and personal images which were appreciated by the researchers.

Top Tips
Here are some of the results from the UXAlliance report which may help in putting yourself in your customer shoes when designing your social media channels.
  1. Make sure your customers are reassured by words such as “official site”
  2. Have consistent imagery and branding with other channels
  3. Clearly state the location of the office
    - so customers know they are on the right page for their location.
  4. Be consistent in responding to posts
    - researchers were confused when their query was unanswered and yet others before and after were responded to.
  5. Have your Twitter account validated by Twitter
    -so it shows as a verified site to build extra consumer confidence that it is the official site.

If you have any examples of best practice to share then do please share below.
[1] The Times Money Section “Should you be using Twitter to complain about poor service?” January 29, 2011
[2] “Around the world in 140 characters” Research Report UXAlliance 2010
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