This Subtle Change May Impact Brand Customer Service on Twitter

Customer service on Twitter is difficult. There are brands doing an excellent job, brands doing a mediocre job and brands that are just darn right terrible at customer service.

You see, as a poet that writes about products, I’ve spent a fair amount of time dealing with brands over the past several years on Twitter. In fact, I have my very own category of “Those That Tweet Brands.

While the majority of brands push out their own content to followers, for me it’s all about how a brand responds to followers/customers which can either create a very positive experience or the opposite. Unfortunately some brands on Twitter have an adversarial approach to customer service and some brands are terrible at customer service on Twitter because they simple don’t respond at all. (Insert cricket noises)

So how could customer service on Twitter be changing in the near future?

On Tuesday of this week, Twitter announced some near-term changes occurring within their platform. While the 140-character limit will remain, photos, videos and other media such as a link to a website, won’t count against the 140-character limit. For example, if I attach a photo to a tweet, this photo would count for 24 characters and I’d only have 116 characters remaining to write a pithy haiku.

The brands that I see that are excellent at customer service on Twitter understand that people who follow brands don’t necessarily want their timeline deluged with tweets, but perhaps for me the most important Twitter change as it pertains to customer service is that any new tweet that starts with an @name, such as @ProductPoet, will now be seen by all followers. Prior to this change, any tweet that started with an @name was only seen by the sender, the receiver and anyone that jointly follows both the sender and receiver. This type of tweet is often called a muted tweet.

So what does this matter when it comes to customer service? The reason why you will see brands respond to followers/customers by starting off a tweet with an @name is primarily because this tweet will not become part of their feed. With this subtle change, now all tweets sent out by a brand as it pertains to customer service have the potential to be included in all of your feeds.

For example, let’s take a look at one of the accounts that I interact with a fair amount of time, Applebee’s. My relationship with Applebee’s on Twitter goes back several years as I have been a guest host and active participant in their Friday Twitter chat Live Lunch (#LiveLunch). Applebee’s has tweeted about 552,000 times. Yes, that isn’t a typo. Applebee’s is also a brand that I believe is doing an amazing job of customer service on Twitter.

As a customer and follower of Applebee’s I have three primary ways I can see Applebee’s tweets: open a browser on my desktop, use the Twitter app on my mobile device or use Tweetdeck on my desktop. All three of these options give me as three different ways of seeing  or not seeing Applebee’s customer service tweets.

When I view Applebee’s Twitter account in my web browser on my computer, I have three tabs to choose from: Tweets, Tweets & replies and Media. Normally brand interactions would fall into the Tweets & replies tab and I would never see interactions between a brand and their followers or for that matter customer service issues, especially if this is a tweet that starts off with an @name. 

So my question is for Twitter, with this subtle change in having any tweet start with an @name, will this fundamentally change how I see customer service tweets from an account such as Applebee’s? Will there even be a need for a Tweet & replies tab, similar to how I see tweets on a mobile device?

Applebees Chrome, Customer Service on Twitter

Now let’s take a look at how Applebee’s tweets look on my mobile device, an iPhone 6+. Unlike my desktop version, on my iPhone I don’t have the ability to just see @Applebee’s tweets, instead I do see their tweets and interactions with followers and their customer service tweets. This would be similar to the “Tweets” column on the desktop version. 

When I am on my iPhone and trying to search for a tweet from Applebee’s within their feed (not their customer service tweets or interactions with followers), because of the amount of tweets they send out, I actually have to scroll a fair bit to find one of their tweets or retweets. However, if I view one of the lists that I have Applebee’s in, I only see their tweets or retweets. 

So my question for Twitter is with this change in making @name tweet seen by all followers, will my lists suddenly become useless as they are flooded with customer service tweets or interactions.

iPhone Twitter, customer service on Twitter

And finally, the third way I see tweets of Applebee’s is on Tweetdeck. Personally, this is my most viewable form of managing my Twitter experience, however unlike the desktop version or mobile version, I can’t see, nor interact with, a Pinned tweet. 

As you can see below, I use columns to see exactly what I want to see on Twitter. I have my tweets, and mentions notifications mentions and then selected lists. Applebee’s happens to be in my “PP Precious Peeps” list, because this is by far my most valuable list. I want to be able to see any unmuted tweet of any person that happens to be in this list, because these are the types of tweets that I want to interact with.

Tweetdeck, customer service on twitter

For example, both Snoop Dogg and Tony Robbins follow me on Twitter, so I want to be able to see those tweets, otherwise they will get lost in my user experience. In fact, truth be told, whether on my desktop in a browser, using the Twitter app on my iPhone or using Tweetdeck, the likelihood of me actually reading my feed is rather low. If someone isn’t in one of my lists, then their tweets will be missed. My apologies for the rhyme, I just can’t help it sometimes. 

Therefore, with this change in making an @name tweet seen by all followers and perhaps in all of my lists, I am curious to see how this will change my experience in Tweetdeck. Will my columns of lists suddenly become useless? There I go again with the rhyming.

So for the majority of brands that are using Twitter today for customer service who are active tweeters,  I doubt this subtle change of making @name tweets seen by all followers will impact their interactions with customers. Brands should just be ready to hear more grumbling from followers as they are cluttering their feed with customer service tweets.  

I would also suspect that brands, such as myself – yes I’ve created a personal brand – will lose followers because now all of our tweets will be in the feeds of our followers. I just hope that brands don’t change how the handle interactions and customer service issues because of this subtle change.

But hey, look on the bright side. By now having all @name tweets seen by your followers, Twitter impressions should go up. For example, I have sent out the same tweet twice. In one tweet, I said something like: “@Name, I think you are awesome!” This tweet had about 100 impressions. 

I then sent out the next tweet, saying something like, “Hey @Name, I think you are awesome.” Same content, just the latter was unmuted. This same tweet received nearly 1,500 impressions. So going forward, with this subtle change, the new @name tweets being seen by all followers, may skew impressions for a while.

Then again, impressions aren’t everything on Twitter. Twitter is about interactions and conversations. Customer service will always have a home on Twitter, albeit a different one in the near future.

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