Twitter Badges For Brands Who Want to Avoid Narcissism

While Facebook is mailing signs to businesses, I’m pretty sure no one is helping them understand Twitter – for free anyways.  After all, Twitter is for narcissists, right?  It occurred to me the other day that the phrase, “Follow us” or “Follow me on Twitter” is getting things off to the wrong start.  Businesses should all aspire to connect with people who are engaged and interested in conversation, creating a value exchange – Twitter is just one of many tools to enable that access to direct conversations.  Companies can ultimately activate that engagement by providing value first and asking for help in return.

My point: A business that says “Follow Us on Twitter” is going to be more and more likely to treat twitter as an opt in broadcast channel, which can ultimately damage the relationship among all the other noise and duck the value of engaging customers (and potential customers) in conversation.

A Proposal

I propose the following to the Twitter Pantheon:  Get rid of “Follow Us” signs on web pages, blogs, email, direct mail, catalogs, billing inserts and anywhere else a business wants to use a badge.  Replace it with the phrase: “Talk to Us on Twitter. It’s a simple change that will encourage conversation from the onset and also change expectations within your organization of how Twitter can be used – more than just pushing messages.  (I did a Google image search and found that only the Frederick, MD Chamber of Commerce had a quick badge on their site using the same language.)

A Little Help

Inspired by Christopher Penn’s post, I’m going to make it easy for you.  Just edit the name in this flash tool below (feedreaders may need to click through to enable) and download the image. – You’ll have a jpg that you can use anywhere.  If you prefer here is a photoshop template you can download and edit to your heart’s desire:

Twitter Talk to Us Template, PSD file, 400K

[SWF]/wp-content/uploads/TwitterLogo.swf, 500, 350[/SWF]

Here are a couple of examples, one for Whole Foods because I happen to be a fan and one for my employer.

Special thanks to Chad Milburn (blog & twitter) for taking a small ask for help and turning it into something more useful than intended.

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No Amount of Social Media Overcomes Bad Customer Experience


This is not a post to bash AT&T.

I know many folks who have had issues with their network, dropping calls and customer service.  I’ve had quite the opposite.  Sure I’ve dropped a call occasionally, but I actually switched to AT&T because they were the only service provider that had great coverage when I was traveling to a client in Ann Arbor, MI, years ago.  In addition to my Blackberry, I purchased a broadband USB card that has helped me tremendously while I have been on the road.  All in all I’ve been a pleased customer for nearly three years.

Where They’re Doing Some Things Well

On the social media side, AT&T has made some compelling strides over the last year plus.  For years they have been working with Seth Bloom (who I have met and think very highly of) and they took the leap to put him customer facing representing the company.  They have shown a good progression – starting with a Youtube channel and an engaging Facebook page, expanding to listening and customer service directly via Twitter, and making all the help more accessible via a social media landing page.  This week AT&T announced a new iPhone app called “Mark That Spot” – it allows customers to indicate when they are in a location with poor 3G coverage – they are listening to customers, and it’s a good start.  I’m not sure how many of AT&T’s competitors have made this much effort, frankly.  For a recent issue I had, @ATTNatasha reached out to me via Twitter and has been extremely patient, helpful and proactive in working to resolve the issue.  Just last week, when Natasha was out of the office, she asked @ATTJason to follow up on another request I had – he was professional, responsive and helpful.

Where The Experience Falls Short

ATTBillHere’s where my personal experience with AT&T fell down. In September I took a 2-day trip to Toronto, Canada, for a conference.  Before I left, I called customer service and asked for recommendations for voice, data and broadband plan changes that would help.  I put measures in place for each.  When I got back, I had a $6,000 bill.  My average monthly bill for all services is $250.

Over the next 6 weeks, I had many calls with Natasha and other customer service reps.  AT&T Billing (not Natasha) called me twice to threaten to disconnect my service while the September bill was in dispute.  Natasha was able to work out several credits offline through her supervisors, and continued to keep me posted via Twitter.  I really enjoyed working with her in this way – I avoided long wait times on the phone.  However in the end her supervisors told her that she could credit me only so much, they believe my broadband card was legitimately connected, and still invoiced me for $1300 worth of data and roaming charges in a two day period.  I have ample spreadsheets to keep track of the discussions and calculations we went through.

On my last call with Natasha, she delivered the news, and I immediately canceled my broadband service.  I already have a Verizon broadband card activated. I am actively shopping for cell phone service.  We agreed to disagree on the bill amount but considered the matter closed.  Two weeks later AT&T suspended all service to my cell phone and only reactivated after I paid the amount due in full.  I felt like I had no other option.

Here’s the point: No amount of interaction through Twitter or other social media outlets could prevent ultimately a bad customer experience and loss of a customer.

In the progression that AT&T has started in social media, a pivotal next step will be to integrate these customer relationships and interactions into their overall business process, with customer feedback being added to the product lifecycle, driving their programs and revamping their overall customer experience. I think I just lived at least a portion of what David Armano and Peter Kim are talking about when they preach “social business design.”

A disclaimer: Was user error involved? Probably – I may have left the broadband card plugged in overnight, which I have since learned is a quick way to rack up usage charges (even if not connected). I definitely did not download however many GB of data they have on record though. Was it worth AT&T to eat more of that cost to keep a long term customer? Apparently not.

Where have you had a bad customer experience?  Did the company try to use social media to overcome it?  Please no AT&T network bashing comments – there are plenty of other outlets for that.

Photo credit: dwfree1967 via Flickr

5 Twitter Tips You May Not Know

twitterbirdAs Twitter turns the corner on the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and heads full speed ahead into the “Trough of Disillusionment,” I thought I’d share 5 tips that have continued to make Twitter a meaningful, useful tool.  Some of these you may know, some may be new.  This is aside from new features coming like Twitter Lists and the ability to report spammers directly from the web version.  If you know of others I’d love to hear them.

  1. Authorize your API connections. It seems like every other week a new Twitter scam pops up sending DMs on behalf of many unsuspecting users.  Of course you can change your password to protect yourself, but many apps require an authorization for your account.  Be sure to check to make sure everything there is legitimate.
  2. Twitter provides their own widgets. There are apps galore out there, but did you know Twitter has developed their own series of widgets for you to use on websites, blogs and elsewhere? Check out to find widgets to show search results, your recent tweets, or your favorite tweets.  Here’s a quick sample of a search widget, showing scrolling chatter ahead of the 2nd TWTRCON conference coming up on October 22 in DC (want to attend? I have a 20% discount code: TWTRAC – I think the agenda is shaping up to beat the first one in SF earlier this year…) [Reading via feed? Please click through to the post to see the widget.]
  3. twittersearchUse RSS to track mentions. I use Google Reader to keep up with many blogs, but sometimes I miss a reply on Twitter if I haven’t logged in for awhile.  If you want to make sure you never miss a mention, create a simple Twitter search on your Twitter name and grab the RSS feed in the top right corner.  I’ll go through that list on occasion to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but a business could import that feed into a more robust tool for reporting and assigning responses.
  4. Get more use out of your Favorites.  I’ve always thought the “Favorites” function was under-utilized.  I tend tto use favorites most often to mark links to go back to read later, especially while I am on the road and using my Blackberry – sometimes taking the time to click through to links doesn’t help.  Once again Google Reader to the rescue.  Your Twitter Favorites are actually available via RSS as well, even though there is no RSS link on the page.  Here is the syntax:  “{twitter name}.rss” – now I can use them like a bookmarking service, feed them to a widget elsewhere and save them even for sharing with others via Google Reader’s sharing functions.  It’s almost a backdoor way to “retweet.”  Here is my feed, which I use very similarly to how I decide what to bookmark in Delicious
  5. There’s an app for that. Everyone has their favorite Twitter applications – the proliferation of 3rd party apps is profound.  My personal crutch is Tweetdeck, which has allowed me to create groups in order to more closely follow friends, industry experts and mentions of clients (more casually than a social media monitoring tool).  Rather than go deep on more apps, in the last few weeks one of my favorite microblogging experts, Laura Fitton, has launched One Forty at – it’s the online equivalent of Apple’s App store but much broader – there are mobile apps for the iPhone, Blackberry and other devices, desktop apps, Twitter analytic services and more.  Integrated to your Twitter profile, allows you to rate and suggest services.  This site will clearly help sort through what the best and worst 3rd party apps are out there.  Laura is a featured speaker at TWTRCON too.

What other Twitter tips do you have to share?  I’ve been using Twitter for more than two years but continue to learn ways to make it an effective tool and build connections. Were these tips old news to you?  (Did you know that Disqus, the comment system which I recently installed here, allows you to authenticate via your Twitter account?  Sweet.)

Photo credit: cotinis via Flickr

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News Flash: Big Brands Can Be Social Too

Companies and brands of all sizes can leverage social technologies to interact one on one with customers. Every interaction is a chance to foster community, build advocacy and change opinions. Many Web2.0 and technology companies are of course eating their own dog food doing this, but can a big, dinosaur, established, brand adapt? The folks at Proctor and Gamble are showing it’s possible – in this case with a brand that’s been around since 1946. Here’s an example of how a large, established consumer brand can be just as nimble as startups and smaller companies.

Awhile ago, I shared my thanks to the inventor of the Tide To Go Pen, who created a product that happened to save me from a serious coffee stain right before a client meeting. I even managed to include a misspelling to make it seem authentic (ok, it was really authentic, I made the typo).

tidetweetI started to receive several replies from other enthusiasts for the product. If you look at the Twitter stream of “Tide pen” mentions people are talking about this product. It’s a useful, customer-centric, problem solving product. But I didn’t think I would garner an individual response from the Tide team at P&G.

Have you met Deb Schultz? I first met Deb at the Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas last year. She is a talented consultant and social media practioner who recently joined a talented crew at Altimeter Group. Case in point, her recent presentation at the Web2.0 expo entitled, “It’s the People, Stupid” about designing social experiences. Deb has been working with P&G for some time, and contacted me to say thanks for my tweet, and encouraged me to go to to share my praise there. I did.

Too often as consumers we pipe up when we have a bad experience with a product or service, I thought I may as well share some praise.  Via DM, the Tide team also asked for my address.  A week or so later I received a small package from the Tide team, including a sample of the new Tide to Go Mini pen, with a note that read:

tidetogo“Dear Adam,
Thanks for complimenting Tide to Go. We appreciate it! Here is a small thank you gift from the Tide Brand.
– The Tide Team”

Want to talk about designing a social experience? The Tide team gets it – every one of these interactions has the potential to build advocacy, good will and influence more customers than just me. I for one felt compelled to tell a few people about my experience via Twitter at the time and this blog post later one. When was the last time you had that kind of interaction with a big brand?

Kudos to the Tide Team, P&G and Deb – I look forward to seeing more from them. And until there are 100% spillproof cups I’ll keep the Tide to Go pen as a staple in my laptop bag.  Have you had a similar positive experience with a big brand?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

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How Twitter and Social Networks Can Make History

ideaEvery once in awhile a video comes along that inspires thought and challenges assumptions.  This video of internet guru Clay Shirky speaking as part of the TED series is no exception.  From the advent of the printing press to modern community platforms, Shirky uses stories from China, Iran, the Obama campaign, and other political uprisings to demonstrate the power of Facebook, text messaging and Twitter to make a real impact.  This is worth the watch.

(Thanks to David Armano for sharing this on Twitter.  Feed subscribers please click through to see the video).

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How to Show The Value of Twitter In 2 Minutes or Less

2170597742_77181240ccTwitter is not a service that will appeal to everyone.  Allegedly 60% of Twitter users leave after the first month (although this doesn’t include those who switch to desktop apps like Tweetdeck).  I’d argue it’s because they only have Oprah and Ashton Kutcher showing them the ropes and need some better guidance; Twitter is intuitive to use but not to build a network or get the most value out of it.  Here are some simple steps to show someone the value of Twitter.

  1. Pick a topic the person is passionate about.
  2. Go to and run a search on the term.
  3. Find an interesting tweet or post about the topic, and click through to the profile of the person who posted it.  If the profile looks interesting, follow that person.  Follow a few folks like this.
  4. Start a conversation, reply to one of the posts as if you had started a conversation in line at the supermarket.
  5. Look for someone sharing a useful website or blog post related to the topic, click through to the blog and consider subscribing to it.  Maybe reply to the author via comment or back on Twitter to let them know what you thought.
  6. Spend a few minutes in the conversation and see what happens.  Try again the next day.
  7. Repeat.

Within a few minutes you’ll likely get valuable content and conversation to you, relevant to a topic you are interested in.  You might even find a job listing.  I just tried this approach on 3 people – using photography, user experience and summer camp – and went 3 for 3 on “wows.”  New to Twitter? Let me know if this helps.  Twitter veteran? What else would you recommend to get someone started?

ps. Try “ball bearings” – you’ll find manufacturing suppliers, engineers, and people who like Fletch.

photo credit: 2create via Flickr

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Celebrities Are Not Taking Over Twitter

crowdsCelebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Shaquille O’Neal and Britney Spears are not taking over Twitter.  A well publicized event like Oprah tweeting on her show won’t help.  Ashton vs. Larry King, in a contest to see which account, @aplusk (“a plus k”) or @cnnbrk can reach a million followers first is a publicity event that had lots of benefits for both in terms of building large networks, but they are not taking over.  Any way you slice it, their efforts are futile. They can’t take over Twitter because of one simple fact: people choose who they follow.

Twitter is a social network that allows a member to choose who to follow, and followers choose whether they follow back.  Follow who you are interested in.  Ignore spammers or folks who don’t interest you. It’s that simple.

The major benefit of all the celebrity activity around Twitter is that more people will be drawn to use the service.  For a concept that is so simple, Twitter is not the most intuitive network to navigate.  Understanding how to start and join in a conversation online is a little outside of the comfort zone of many people.  I’ve seen many people join Twitter and 6 months later they are following 10 people, no one is following back and the only post on their account is “Joined twitter, trying to figure this out.”  Take a look for yourself.

I will still contend that Twitter is not for everybody, but as more people figure out how to build their own communities on the platform, the more valuable content and discussion will be aggregated.  I like to think of the volume of content on Twitter as an unstructured Wikipedia – it’s not precisely accurate but directionally correct, and the more sources that contribute the better it gets.

Here’s an example.  I had a conversation last night with someone who had just joined twitter and had trouble convincing a friend why it is valuable.  I asked what that friend did for a living – the friend was a user experience designer, and very skeptical about Twitter.  I pulled up and searched for “UX” – and immediately found UX job listings, informative blogs of well known people in the industry and a lot of people talking about user experience design.  I clicked through to a couple of twitter profiles and quickly identified the lead of user experience of  Within a few minutes I could identify a dozen valuable resources that would help that friend in his career.

I’ve been using Twitter for nearly two years, and the community has changed and evolved.  I still keep to the core of interacting with folks who share common interests, whether it’s the Red Sox, social media or the fun of a lazy Saturday morning with the kids at home.  I’ve come to heavily rely on Tweetdeck to manage groups of friends and contacts that I don’t want to lose in the sea of “tweets,” but I am also continuing to find value by identifying interesting people who have something valuable to share.  With valuable contributors, searching Twitter has become an increasingly relevant way to get to content.  Celebrities joining twitter can only bring more interesting people to follow right along with them.

Are you using Twitter? Do you think celebrities joining is positive or negative, and has it changed how you use Twitter?  Feel free to reach out to me @adamcohen on Twitter to discuss, I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit: Neon23 via flickr

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