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I’ll be the first to admit I’m a Twit.  I absolutely love Twitter.  Some people don’t get it, some brands don’t care for it, and others are all over it like white on rice.  I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with my husband explaining how Twitter works and why I find it so awesome.


Him: “Isn’t it just a status update?”

Me: “Well, sorta, but it’s more about microblogging.”

Him: “Micro-what? It’s just a limited status update, I don’t see the point.”

Me: “Well, yeah, if you use it that way, but I don’t really follow too many people; I follow brands and influencers. That’s where you get the good stuff.”

Him: “Meh.”

Me: “Eh.”

We both shrug and move onto the next topic.

The immediacy of Twitter is one of its strongest characteristics.  And while it does require a higher degree of attention to be a proactive Twitter-user, it is manageable.

But my favorite pastime is seeing which brands are “with it” when it comes to tweeting.  I will purposefully tweet something with a brand’s handle (their @name) to see how long it takes for them to respond, if they respond at all, and if it’s canned or personal.  My latest experiment pitted @Publix vs @WholeFoods.  I tweeted a “whoa is me” type of comment but added a humorous tag and smiley-face so it didn’t come across as whining.

Tweeting @Publix

Within 24 hours Publix had written back.  It was clearly from someone who read my tweet and replied like a human.

@Publix replied

A few days later I drove by the coming-soon Whole Foods and wondered if they would respond to a similar tweet.  Granted, I should have kept all variables the same and tweeted the same exact same content but I wanted to keep it realistic: They’re not even open yet.

Tweeting @WholeFoods

It’s been over 3 days and I haven’t heard from Whole Foods.  In fact, the conversation that started was with a friend.  I gave Whole Foods another tag to see if they’d respond to an ongoing chat and nothing happened.  

@WholeFoods Y U NO REPLY

I probably could have tweeted the same content because I don’t think they’d check to see where I’m located and that there is actually no open store yet in my town (though the vagueness of my Publix tweet could have easily been from a trip).  

Twitter is not the only place where you can miss the boat with your customers though, it’s happened on pretty much all of them. For example, a customer posted a picture of their recently-delivered pizza and said “Best Pizza Ever!” complete with a smiley face. Dominos responded to the  compliment on Facebook with a “we’re sorry that happened, send us your info and we’ll make it right.”  #Fail.  Ben & Jerrys messed up by not monitoring an Instagram contest: rather than previewing images they had asked users to tag with #CaptureEuphoria, they just automated the tagged images right onto their microsite and ended up with not only sad and ridiculous pictures, but also inappropriate nudity! #Oops.

The main point I’d like to get across is please have humans monitor your account(s) so you don’t embarrass your brand or lose thousands of followers like Urban Outfitters.  In their case someone called them out on stealing other an artist’s design and selling it as their own, and their response didn’t offer much consolation: “Hey guys, we see your tweets regarding the I Heart Destination necklace. Please know that our accessories buying team is looking into this.”  It’s not called social media for nothing!  We’re all aware that reaching your target audience is no longer a one-way conversation.  Customers are tweeting, posting, blogging, snapping photos, uploading videos, and are very quick to call a brand out on being irresponsible.  Heck, did I not point to Whole Foods for being lax above? Brands need to embrace the new social-world order--for example, IBM has jumped on this and are promoting the concept of Social Business. But it extends beyond what happens on these networks.  Social Media is an accepted form of Crisis Communication, brands are using it all the time to respond to issues--whether customer complaints or breaking news.  In fact, the longer you wait the worse it is.  Walmart had a bad spell for a minute when The New York Times reported that they bribed officials in Mexico to have stores built there.  They responded late with a couple of videos that seemed forced and unemotional.  They did fight a legal battle out of the spotlight, and essentially won.  What WalMart did do correctly was use YouTube rather than an locally-hosted video.  They went social with their response, even if it was a low-ball approach.  But it’s Walmart, so life just moves on as though nothing happened.  Using social media as a form of crisis communication is a topic all of its own; here I want to emphasize open and clear communication--that’s quick and human.

I may see if I can get #WaitinOnWholeFoodsTLH to trend.