As I start writing this post, I feel slightly hypocritical. Over the past few months, I’ve scoffed at many social media articles, seminars, webinars and blog posts because it’s become the topic de jour for just about everyone in our industry. I’ve read plenty of Twitter articles too, about how companies like @ford, @dell, @southwestair and others have gotten tangible results and/or sales from it. I thought I might be able to add a slightly different take to it though, by taking a look at six of companies I’ve dealt with on Twitter – two of the best, two of the mediocre and two of the bad. I’m also writing this with the thought that I will utilize Google Wave to try and draw more insight for a follow-up column. Want to get it on that or just want to share your opinion? Leave a comment please. Here we go…
I love Scotts. They make a great product. Just as important, they know exactly who they are, what people want from them and what they’re good at – Grass. For years, they’ve had a great email newsletter program that delivers localized information based on your zip code. By that, they know what kind of grass you likely have and what you need to do to care for it properly. Their Twitter presence has a similar mission and they stick to it, almost 100%. A company like Scotts could try and branch off into talk about outdoor living, sports, pets, and other things…but they don’t. They could also get very retail-ish by talking about sales, rebates, coupons, etc. frequently, but they don’t.
My interaction with them started because of the mole problems my girlfriend was having at her house. I posted a message @ them and got an answer quickly, plus a follow-up after I asked another question. Quick response time, sticking to what they know and not pushing sales because they know their product is #1 and people will buy it if they understand it.
Yep, Ford’s gotten tons of praise for their social media efforts already. But I’m going to give them some more. Why? Above all else, they’re doing a fantastic job in social media, from Facebook and Twitter to Flickr and YouTube, and their great aggregator-type site – TheFordStory.com. And yeah, I’m a car nerd and an unabashed Ford fanboy.
Scott Monty has gotten plenty of praise for the way he’s led Ford in social media, and deservedly so. He’s now got Ford running ten different Twitter accounts, realizing that the same people who follow @forddrivegreen are likely not the same as @fordmustang followers. They are just finishing up the Fiesta Movement, a social media-led effort to gain publicity for the Ford Fiesta small car – the North American version launches this week at the LA Auto Show so we’ll soon see how this effort pays off. And I was chosen to be part of the Taurus Game Day Experience – more on that here
I admire the way ten different accounts feed off each other without duplicating, or forgetting each account’s mission. And I admire that even with 20,000 followers of the main account alone, I frequently get replies when I mention Ford or ask a question. Ford is changing perceptions in every tactic of their communications strategy, and this is no different. I am shocked that more car companies haven’t jumped in yet; the only ones that have really embraced it seem to be the Detroit 3.
Honorable Mention: I also really like what KC ad agencies @c3kidsmart and @callahancreek are doing – sharing interesting facts & research into the fields they specialize in – kid marketing and retail, respectively.
I use ExactTarget’s email platform on a daily basis and am quite familiar with it. It’s an extremely powerful system that certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s the best of its breed. Their slogan is “Relationships. Delivered.” With a slogan like that, you’d expect them to have top-notch social media. I really can’t find anything glaringly wrong with the way they manage Twitter; I’m just not as impressed as I expected to be. They share plenty of info but I just don’t find much of it useful. ExactTarget is chock-full of powerful capabilities that are not easy to find; they should know this and use Twitter to share tips, tricks, tweaks, etc. For example, they launched a fairly major software upgrade in early November and didn’t post anything about it – that’s a miss, in my mind. EDIT: after an extremely nice comment from Dawn DeVirgilio of ExactTarget, I realized that I was incorrect about that statement – apologies ET! You can do better ExactTarget. You should do better.
This is a locally-run company that is tied to Andersen Windows/Doors, one of the biggest brands in the building industry. Being a local company with only 167 followers, maybe I’m being too hard on them. But there’s a reason they only have that many – they rarely share anything of value. Looking through pages & pages of Tweets, almost every one of their posts is a testimonial from a customer. Those are great, but don’t you have anything else to say? They don’t retweet anything and they don’t ever respond to people or participate in any conversations. It’s like they aren’t sure what their objective is in being on Twitter, nor who their target audience is. RenewalKC, I’ll tell you – your objective is to share interesting content related to windows & doors to build awareness, trust and top-of-mind awareness with potential customers. Your secondary objective should be to drive leads through promotions & offers, which I’m sure you’re running in-store…they just don’t get posted to the web. And your target audience is Kansas City homeowners, of which there are many.
Honorable Mention: @gmblogs
loses points for using “blog” in the name of their main account; it’s not a blog, guys. And they lose points for being decent, just not as good as Ford in this area. I give them a lot of points, however, for being here when Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, among others, are not. And they’re better than @toyota
. Toyota uses one account for Lexus, Scion and Toyota – really guys, your target audience for Scion and Lexus is the same? Why don’t your TV spots show all three brands together?
Sprint Care, you’ve got a singular mission – managing questions & complaints. Granted, that’s not an easy job – it seems like nobody is really thrilled with their wireless provider; Verizon is the “best” and their satisfaction rate was in the 50% range, if memory serves correctly. But Sprint, if you’re going to have this account, you need to use it the right way – with a bit more honesty and transparency than normal customer service whenever possible.
Long story short – the service in my apartment is spotty. I live less than 200 yards from a major KC highway, on top of a hill on the top floor of the building so service should not be a problem. On Sprint’s coverage map, I’m in the solid green area. Yet, my signal fades in & out and never is anywhere near full strength. I went to a Sprint store, called customer service, emailed customer service and as a fourth course of action, I posted a message @sprintcare. They responded quickly, asking me to send them an email at a special service email address. I’m thinking, “Awesome, this is going to solve my problem!” So I email them and quickly get another Twitter message telling me they’re looking into it, which was, again, great. Then a month goes by and I’ve heard nothing. I post a couple messages @sprintcare and email them again, before finally getting a response…the same generic response I’d gotten from customer service six weeks ago. I responded again and haven’t heard a thing since.
Sprint, if you really wanted to differentiate yourself, you could start with a little empathy and acknowledgment of a less than stellar service area, rather than blaming me, my building, the weather, terrorists and the full moon for the problem. Even if you didn’t solve it, at least you could acknowledge that it’s an issue. But no, you didn’t, so you end up in my bad list because you are creating unrealistic expectations with this Twitter account. Live up to it, or quit doing it.
I recently took advantage of a Buy 3, Get 1 Free offer that NTB was running on Yokahoma tires – I’d utilized a similar deal at Firestone a couple years back and figured this deal would be just as good. Then, I got to NTB and found out my cost was about 20% ($125) higher than I thought, due to them charging a separate installation fee, on top of the tire costs, something Firestone hadn’t done. I was irritated but paid it anyway, because I needed the tires and I didn’t want to make my girlfriend pick me up and drop me off again another day.
I went online to their site and sent a message to the customer service dept., letting them know I didn’t like their somewhat shady promotional tactic. Never heard a peep. I also posted about my experience on Twitter and a couple days later, got a response from @NTB_tires. After some back & forth, they asked me to email customer service; I told them that I already had done so and gave them my email to find the message. They apparently never found it because all I got from NTB was a generic, “we value your business” apology. They’re on the bad list because of the apparent disconnect between their web customer service and their Twitter manager – can one not talk to the other? Apparently not, and that should be a prerequisite for any company on Twitter.
There you have it…a few opinions and stories from me. Now, what companies have you dealt with on Twitter? What have your experiences been like?
If you want some more to look at, check out my companies list on Twitter HERE.
I would also welcome any of the companies discussed above to offer their opinions. I’m curious to see how many of them have monitoring systems in place that will alert them to this post. If I had to bet, I’d expect a response first from Scott Monty at Ford, followed by Scotts maybe. Scott, don’t let me down… 🙂