The Trouble with Twitter: Where’s the Business Use Case?
One of the challenges of being a technology analyst is most people assume you are ripe to jump on every technology bandwagon that comes along. And I admit, I’m often ready to jump on board and go for a ride. So at the risk of being labeled a Luddite, I’m going to ‘come out of the closet’ with an unpopular opinion:
I am not a fan of Twitter, and have yet to find any viable business case for a Twitter integration for customer service and support beyond brand monitoring.
I was suspicious about Twitter from the beginning, when the main people I knew adopting Twitter were ego maniacs who assumed everyone was dying to know what they had for breakfast, how long they waited in line at Starbucks, the price of gas from their latest fill up, and how hard they laughed at Dilbert that morning. (The same people whose Facebook status shows what song is currently playing on their Internet radio station.) Sure, maybe there was an insightful message now and then, but:
- Tweets are 1-way. Yes, you can reply, but I don’t think anyone wants to argue that Twitter is an excellent 2-way communicator. It is primarily outbound.
- Tweets are out of context for the reader. Sure, they are in context for the sender, but the stream of consciousness blather doesn’t come at convenient times for the reader, and they are unlikely to remember important information when they do need it days or weeks later.
- Fads don’t last. First everyone battled to see who had the most MySpace friends. Then MySpace became déclassé, so the same group started trying to win the most friends battle on Facebook. And now that even your parents are on Facebook, the contest turns to who has the most followers on Twitter. By next Spring, some new channel will have emerged and Twitter’s impact will fade as well.
Bottom line: With the amount of information I have to consume to do my job growing exponentially, this is not a thread of content on my priority list.
Then, multiple service and support vendors starting talking about Twitter integration. “How curious,” I thought. “I must have missed some valid business cases!” I saw some demos from multi-channel CRM and eService vendors, including a recent ‘bake off’ in which 4 vendors had 15 minutes each to show why their combination of knowledge and interaction tracking tools were the best. 2 of the vendors spent their entire time showing their Twitter integration. About what you would expect: you can open an incident for a Tweet, you can send incident updates via a Tweet, you can capture Tweets in customer history. Here is my takeaway from looking at these integrations:
- Can vs. should. Just because Twitter is easy to integrate with doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it as a major talking point. Clearly some vendors are using a Twitter integration as a proofpoint of Web 2.0 enablement. A Jive integration would be a better use of resources.
- Channel agnosticism. Just because someone is active on Twitter doesn’t mean that is the only channel in which they communicate. In fact, I think it is a pretty narrow view of Twitter participants to assume they want all their information in that channel as opposed to SMS Text, Email, etc.
- Look at the big picture. I think the primary business value for Twitter would be analyzing what people are saying about you via Twitter to understand customer attitudes about your brand and products (just as you should be doing for public forums and blogs). But this is a challenge for Clarabridge or Attensity (a text analysis engine), not an incident tracking tool.
So go ahead. Call me a Luddite. I’ve been called worse. But show me the business value before saying I’m wrong. I’ll certainly change my opinion if armed with some good facts.
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