Twitter, the consumer venting machine

We have entered a new era when it’s easier than ever before to get your opinion out there. Writing a short message on Twitter takes almost no effort at all and it is immediately published on the Web. Services like Twitter have amplified the word-of-mouth effect several times over.
For an extreme example, just check out the talk on Twitter when Gmail is down.
There is a parallel here to blogging. What regular blogging once did for word of mouth was to make it possible for anyone to become a publisher (going from “one-to-one” to “one-to-many” communication). This has now been taken one step further since even those reluctant to maintain a blog won’t think twice about sending out a quick message on Twitter or any other micro-blogging service.

The effect of amplified word of mouth (you win)

Think about what this means for consumers (that’s YOU). This is one really good thing about the whole Twitter trend. Consumers have always been able to “vote with their wallets”, but now they can collectively sway things in their favor by also making their voice heard on Twitter, Facebook, and other real-time social media.
Just do a search on Twitter for “bad service” or something similar. You’ll see a ton of people who are displeased with one thing or another, throwing tweets out there to vent their frustration.

Above: One of many tweets regarding “bad service”. (This one found here.)
Twitter as a service is essentially saying, “We’ll take all your complaints and publish them for you.”
And it’s not all about complaints. It goes both ways. You as a consumer have the power to say nice things too, you know. 😉 It’s your chance to lift a service or product or company you think isn’t getting enough attention or credit. Again, it’s just like regular word of mouth, only amplified. For example, praise for movies on Twitter is apparently becoming a factor at the box office these days.
In short, by being able to voice their opinions “louder” and more widely than before, consumers are gaining more power.

Not a good time to be a big company with a bad service

To clarify, it’s NEVER been a good time to be a big company with a bad service, but with today’s amplified word of mouth we think it’s going to quickly become completely unsustainable.
Why specifically big companies? Because a company with a large number of customers will most likely have more Twitter users in their customer base than a company with few customers and therefore more people who can make their voices heard.
Here’s an interesting side effect of that fact: The more customers a company has, the more amplified complaints become. Even if a relatively small percentage of a very large customer base has a complaint, those who do will still make a lot of noise since it will still be a big group of people. One percent of a million users is still 10,000 people.
The wider the audience you reach, the more powerful the backlash can be if you’re putting something substandard out there (or manage to upset your customers in any way).

Can companies ignore this? Nope

Don’t think that companies aren’t taking notice of your complaints. They may not always take action, but rest assured that there have been plenty of cases where a burst of negative feedback and complaints have made companies scramble into damage control mode.
If the news coverage we’ve seen of social media monitoring services is any indication, it’s becoming increasingly common for companies to keep a close eye on what people are saying about them on the Web. So make your voice heard!
Realize also that the public conversation we’re seeing today on sites like Twitter is only the beginning. Five years from now this will have exploded beyond what we can imagine today. Without really thinking about it, consumers are becoming an increasingly powerful force, not because of any individual person, but as a group. It’s a form of crowdsourcing, working for you.
Even today, at what must be considered early days for the real-time Web, things can take off like wildfire (see, the Twitter Effect). If this doesn’t put companies on their toes, we don’t know what will.

1 comment

  1. These are all good points. My word of caution…don’t get flamboyant in your storytelling about poor customer service and adjust some facts. Slander and libel are still illegal and you can be sued for hurting someone’s reputation.

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