Is listening creepy? I'm seeing that word more lately. As much as we tell companies that The Right Way to do social media is to listen and engage, some people just don't want to hear back from companies they talk about. Somehow, they've developed an expectation of privacy in public communication channels.
They're mistaken. But it's in your company's interest to avoid creeping out the customers, anyway.
The party metaphor for social media describes a social approach to entering existing conversations, but partygoers need to remember that we don't have loud music or quiet corners here. Unless they pick a private spot, their conversation is public, and modern search tools make it available to everyone. Conversations about a company—especially complaints—are going to catch the company's attention.
Think of the executive who overhears a conversation about his company at the party. He'd listen and find a way to enter the conversation if needed.
Avoid the trench coat
Companies can do everything right, and some people will find it creepy, anyway. They're not thinking about what it means when companies don't pay attention. We have plenty of examples where the lack of a response (or an insufficiently speedy response—*cough* Motrin) becomes the basis for a new round of complaints—I don't have to convince you that silence is not usually the best response, do I?
So what can we do to minimize the creep factor?
- Don't stalk everyone who casually mentions your business. We've all had to shake a hungry salesman, and nobody likes it. Twitter follows may be especially likely to trigger a shudder.
- Work on your approach; avoid language that falls on the floor like a bad pickup line. Clear, open and helpful are a good start.
- When you respond publicly to a public complaint, offer to take the follow-up discussion to a private channel, such as email or phone. Expect anything you say or do in the private channel to become public, because it might.
- Be very careful about using everything you know about a customer when you respond. People probably aren't ready to learn that you can map their social media activity to their account at your company (with all of their personal contact information). Give them time.
- Expect some people to react badly to the most well-intentioned contact. Apologize, recover and move along. You can't win 'em all.
Some people aren't going to like it, and some will complain when you try to do the right thing (being wrong never stopped them
before, why would it now?). More will complain if you don't.
Tales from the trenches?
What are you doing to avoid that uncomfortable response to your online engagement? How's it working for you? Has anyone called you creepy for responding to them yet?
If teenagers think Twitter is creepy, they're not going to like company responses in Twitter, either.
Photo by byungkyupark.