If you read this blog religiously like I do, you probably know that there are some amazing business benefits to social media. Twitter in particular can be used to engage and communicate with customers, provide real-time customer service, and share your brand voice. Social media can be invaluable in expanding your reach, sharing information, and creating a sense of community.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, and consumers judge brands harshly for a Twitter faux pas.
People responsible for their company's social media accounts can learn a lot from the mistakes and triumphs of other brands. We can learn which strategies work and can be emulated, and which should be used with caution.
Anyone who's active on Twitter has probably had varied experiences with brands. Sometimes, they're quick to respond and treat you like an individual person. For example, when I complained that Amazon’s email marketing tactics were aggravating, they politely responded with a suggestion and apology. Although I’m still peeved, their customer service was fast and the response included the individual respondents initials indicating that there was a real person communicating directly with me.
That’s not the experience I had with @24Fox. Instead, I received automated tweets that, ultimately, tarnished my perception of their “brand.” Here’s what happened and what it means for your business on social media:
For those who don’t know, the show 24 ended (tragically) in 2010 leaving viewers to wonder what ever did happen to Jack Bauer. Rumors of a reboot or a movie have been circulating among desperate fans ever since. And then, like the best kind of TV miracle, our beloved, action-packed show was returning and once again we could follow 24 intense, chaotic hours of our favorite ex-government agent. Okay, well technically only 12 hours this time, but it’s 12 more than we expected.
It’s this excitement for the return of Jack Bauer that made the #JackIsBack hashtag so successful. Fox introduced the hashtag during the show’s teaser trailer (below).
As a devoted fan, you can imagine my excitement when I was unexpectedly mentioned in this tweet about an hour before a new episode aired:
24 wants my opinion?! Of course I’m going to participate in the conversation when they’re reaching out to me. Especially when I could talk forever about Jack Bauer. I eagerly responded.
As a brand, this is what you want out of social media. I'm interacting, telling them how important their "product" is to me, and promoting them on my own account. Much to my surprise, they mentioned me again. The tweet seemed like it was in response to my comment and that we were having a conversation, 140 characters at a time.
.@24fox yes and then immediately after one of them will be kidnapped by the Chinese. Because true love always prevails, unless you're Jack— Lauren Longo (@llongo510) June 24, 2014
Rather than a response, @24Fox mentioned me in another tweet, reminding me what time the show started.
Now, it was probably my own enthusiastic fandom that prevented me from realizing in the first place what was really happening. However, during the previous week’s episode I’d been tweeting about the show and interacting with other fans, so I thought they’d chosen some people to reach out to and get the conversation started early.
That would have been an excellent social media strategy. Engaging directly with fans right before the action to get people talking about your product (in this case, a show), especially when you already know they're promoters, is a great way to get people engaged.
Technically, that's what they were doing but their execution of the plan could use improvement.
As marketers, we know it's impossible to constantly man your brand's Twitter account. At least, if it's possible it sounds like a tedious life. Even marketers have to sleep. Scheduling tweets ahead of time can be a huge timesaver. However, if you're going to interact directly with specific customers, make sure it's a real person providing an authentic experience. Tweeting the same message to dozens (or more) people is deceptive, anti-social, and a little spammy.
This is a glimpse at @24Fox’s feed following the episode:
Now, maybe they happen to have a really fast tweeter on staff, or a few of them. Maybe it really was someone engaging in a conversation with me. The point is that it didn’t feel that way and once I saw dozens of the same tweet, I felt like I’d been played. I’m a huge fan and now I feel manipulated.
This might not seem like a big deal in the long run. 24 has plenty of other fans. But think about this scenario in terms of your business. What kind of message are you sending? What conversations are you having? Are you using your fans for free publicity or are you making customers fall even more in love with you?
There’s a time and a place for automation. Marketing automation can feel like a lifesaver. When you want to convert leads and delight customers, however, your brand has to be more human than robot. @24Fox has over 100,000 Twitter followers. Understandably, they can't respond to everyone who mentions them. If they are the ones reaching out though, they should be prepared to follow through.
Looking at their feed today, it appears they are trying to shake things up. While they've included the same few gifs in their mentions, the messages vary. Hopefully, they've learned to avoid mass, automated tweets.
What do you think: Sketchy marketing ploy, or perfect use of Twitter mentions?