The dangers of brands over-responding on Twitter

One of my favourite podcasts is Listen to Lucy from the FT’s Lucy Kellaway and this week she has a great piece addressing how brands are responding on Twitter. Specifically how Starbucks responds to some Tweets about the brand. The piece is, like all her podcasts, humourous but with a serious message. And in this case I think its a message many brand would benefit from taking on board – how to respond to people on Twitter, or indeed how not to.

The case she discusses is of UK satirist, Armando Iannucci and a Tweet he made about Starbucks and the hygiene of their stores. She remarks on how the Starbucks UK MD is responding to this and similar Tweets about the brand and the regularity at which he is doing this.

Whilst I think that there is a real benefit of engaging with customers online in this way and it is important for brands to put in place a clear and thorough process for reacting and responding to mentions of their brand online. But, as we spend much of our time telling clients, the key is not to feel that every mention needs to be responded to. In fact in most cases mentions of your brand online do not merit a response.

Kellaway makes this point succinctly. The Starbuck UK MD, she says, should have other things to worry about than one message about the hygiene of his stores. Indeed, as she says, he should probably be more worried about the fact that he only finds out about this from a Tweet and not from his own staff.

There is a real danger with social media. Because it is easy to find mentions of your brand online there is a temptation to think that you need to respond to them. Kellaway’s point, and one that brands should take into account when planning their social media strategies, is that overall business strategy should not be driven by what is said on Twitter. In fact you should not build a process of reacting and responding that treat messages in social media in a different way from through other mediums.

The best approaches to customer service are not to have a special social media route to get your problems dealt with, but to feed social media into your existing channels. If you have a customer care team, it is they who should deal with mentions in social media (where they need to be dealt with). Social media mentions should not be elevated to a special level that received particular attention over and above how you deal with your other customers and their issues, comments and suggestions. You should integrate social media into your business not treat it as a special case.

You can Listen to Lucy on here