Twitter – The End Of Rhetorical Tweeting?

This morning I got to thinking…there was a time when Twitter users would air their frustrations on Twitter about brands or organisations that had really hacked them off. This was the age of rhetoric, with those furious outbursts never requiring or expecting a response, merely providing a theraputic channel to vent their thoughts and feeling (unless the tweeter specifically @mentioned said brand). At some point acouple of years ago, brands realised that there was some value in having a ‘conversation’ with customers. Compare The Market realised that ‘people buy people’ rather than brands so introduced a cheeky little meerkat fellow to talk to people on Twitter to make them feel like they were dealing with a personality rather than an online financial data aggregator. This was very successful, but still revolved around a conversation instigated and promoted by the brand.

Come 2010, ‘listening tools’ were becoming a standard part of many larger company’s communication/marketing strategies. If a brand was going to assign budget to a ‘social media campaign’ (washes mouth out) post economic crisis, then it needed to know what internet users were saying about them, their peripheral interests (e.g. Orange mobile customers liking to go to the cinema on a Wednesday) and where these conversations were happening. That was last year…

With 2012 in the cross hairs, users of Twitter, may now tweet a little less rhetorically. We don’t yet expect, however we are not surprised to have, each of our tweets monitored by brands.  With all this self serving ‘listening’ going on there is an increased sense by consumers that we expect an answer to that frustrated tweet or flippant remark.

 Sainsburys are very good at it – if you mention them on Twitter and it’s something they can sort out then there’s a good chance that they’ll tweet you whether you @mentioned them or not. All of the social media monitoring software providers are extremely good at hearing you mention them on Twitter (as you’d expect them to be. If I mention R a d i a n 6 or B r a n d w a t c h then I always put spaces between the letters to decrease the chances of them ‘hearing’ me (although most have a letter/word proximity tool). Yes i’m a paranoid weirdo but just because i’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not all out to tweet me. FYI, I currently use Brandwatch and it’s pretty good. Visible Technologies, i’ve never used but have heard good things about and same with PeopleBrowser.

So the point really of this post is that, if only subconsciously, we are moving in to an era where consumers know that brands are listening, which leads to the expectation that they should be responding. If they listen but don’t respond then they’re just ignoring you right? If you want to read an arguement for not responding to every customer’s social media demand, read Ilana Fox’s NMA piece.

Finally, I asked the following question on Twitter:

 …and below are the responses I received which were varied and very interesting:

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