Business Tweets Accounts a Double-Edged Sword for IT Admins

By | Jul 17, 2012

Much is often made about customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions, but some of the best options for midsize business to connect with customers come in the form of stand-alone social media efforts like Facebook or Twitter. Clients now expect companies to be online all the time, and to respond in a timely manner to feedback. But while business tweets can help get out the word about companies' initiatives, these short bursts of information can also prove a real headache for IT admins if they are not handled properly.

Tweet Idea

Managers and owners realize the need to get on Twitter and start sending out tweets about their products and services, but many don't realize the value of this near-instant form of communication for managing customer relationships and retention, according to a recent Ecommerce Times article.

"Early on, Twitter was primarily seen as a marketing and monitoring channel," says Justyn Howard, CEO of Sprout Social, but customers are now using the service as a way to contact companies directly--and they expect a prompt reply. This is where things can get tricky for IT admins; even if it's a single negative user experience, a Twitter account holder tweeting about a company with whom they have had a bad experience can quickly gain momentum, and in a matter of days or even hours businesses may find themselves running damage control.

For IT professionals, the keys to managing any Twitter account lie in transparency and knowledge. It's not enough to ignore any mudslinging by customers--deserved or not--and doing so will just make a company seem like they don't know how to use social media or they just don't care. Transparency about any issue that arises, even if it's a simple miscommunication, is essential. At the same time, however, it's not enough just to respond after things have gone sideways on a Twitter account. Programs like TwitHawk, which can be set up to monitor terms being tweeted, along with the right keyword picks by IT professionals can help catch an issue before it becomes a major problem.

Of course, there's also the benefit of looking like a company that cares and will address specific customer feedback; even in cases where that's not possible, a well-managed Twitter account lets businesses redirect issues to the right employee or manager rather than forcing customers through the "I can't help you, but..." grind that's so frustrating.

A Bird in the Hand...

A July 16, 2012, article at CIO Today discusses the recent Twitter/Salesforce.com alliance announcement; under the new strategic global alliance, Salesforce Radian6 customers will get access to over 400 million tweets daily that they can analyze and data mine. With an established three-year working history, this next step was no surprise and should mean far faster data analysis for those companies using Salesforce's social media tools and hoping to improve their Twitter responsiveness. This isn't a takeover or a merger but rather an acknowledgement of significance on both fronts; Salesforce still dominates the CRM market, but the "fire hose of public tweets" available on Twitter makes them a force to be reckoned with for businesses of any size.

No matter the kind of CRM solution a company chooses, putting Twitter and Twitter monitoring on the back burner is a very bad idea. Customers will talk about their experiences regardless of whether or not a company has a public Twitter page or chooses to respond, meaning IT admins can either set the tone for interaction or let themselves be carried along by popular opinion. And with the job description for most IT professionals suddenly broadening to include all kinds of non-local network, data analytics, and social media strategy, it's important to take control of business tweets before another voice starts talking. Management has high expectations for social media, and if Twitter doesn't perform they way it's "supposed" to, admins will be the ones getting squawked at.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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