Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twitter+CRM, or how corporations engage with social media

ReadWriteWeb discusses how corporations are engaging social media through their customer service, using "social listening technology" (i.e., blog search + analytics) and CRM databases to detect and head off issues. Seems pretty tame to me, since most social media conversations are public and easily mineable and since corporations have a vested interest in keeping customers happy. But the author recoils:

It's kind of a modern day horror story, isn't it? Web 2.0's potential benefit for humanity tragically sold short by social media because it fell under a fog of marketing software. Would-be short-form conversationalists jumping in with CRM-tinted glasses secured to their faces. One of my co-workers says that within minutes of his wife Tweeting about her art studio last night, she was friended by scads of art companies and salespeople. Who wants to have a conversation in that context?

The author originally went farther by pointing out that such systems give a lot of information to the "emotionally twisted" people who go into sales; in the current version of the story, that phrase has been edited out.


Konstanze said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Konstanze said...

Well, I have to make the point that social media is all about choices by the individual. I make my choices about whom I follow, who I allow to follow me. I create my own community of practice, that suits my knowledge needs, that provides me with collective intelligence on the topic of my choice. Gone are the days of choice-less broadcast media. If a marketer follows me and I don't like it, I block him. There are as many communities as there are micro-blog users, each tailored, customized, individual, none templatized. So, the complaint about unwanted followers is mute to me because I have it in my power to control this. This is a participatory communication technology in which the user is empowered. Doing a little research on this at Greetings, Konnie

Time said...

Social media is indeed about choices, the first obvious one in the given example is "protect my updates," a simple, lone checkbox in Twitter settings that determines whether or not one's tweets are displayed on the public timeline. Otherwise, one is in effect shouting/spouting from a mountain where Everyone can hear. This, of course, is a large reason behind why people use social media. The exhibitionist/voyeur factor, combined with the desire to network with like-minded people, creates this very public venue.

I was once bitten by a dog (severely enough to require stitches), and spent less than hour in the E-room, not making any other public interaction or announcement other than the hospital. For the next 2 weeks, I was barraged with phone calls, emails, and snail letters from a mass of lawyers wanting me to sue the owner and from animal rights organizations imploring me to not have the animal put down.

In this situation, I expected some privacy, as I made no public announcement display of my event. However, had this occurred in the age of social media, or had I went on the news or my proverbial mountain top, I'd expect it. Those individuals publicly engaging in social really have no reasonable expectation of privacy, unless they take the steps to close the door before speaking.

Konstanze has an excellent point in that if one does not want to "close the door" completely, it is easy to block unwanted followers. Presumably, if we keep the door open, we want to cast out that line to connect with people. I would guess that this is potentially true of your friend’s spouse, as well. If she has an art gallery, I’m sure she wants artists, sellers, buyers, interested parties, etc.

To echo Konnie, we have great control over the choice we make in how we use it and with whom we use it, and I’d say even in what we use. If one tool is not working for you, there’s another one less than 140 characters away.

Ehren said...

Ultimately, Twitter controls what happens on Twitter, likewise, Facebook. It should be fairly easy for them to detect, track, and block everything they don't want to happen on their platforms.

If predatory marketing tactics interfere with the growth or use of these services, and if enough people complain about it, the platforms will take notice and take action.

Because marketers aren't going to police themselves, it's up to users to determine what they're willing to put up with, putting pressure on the services - a slow, imperfect feedback loop that people will never completely agree upon.

Clay Spinuzzi said...

Time - I'm not that worried about the whole shouting/spouting thing. Certainly that's not why I'm on Twitter. I'm more interested in what Konstanze is studying under the heading of social capital, and what that means for rapid, distributed information sharing among specific communities. The rest can be distracting, but as Konstanze says, you can always block people.

Although I didn't find any value in the Tupperware tweet I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago, I did get value several months back when I tweeted about Flock: a Flock rep engaged me in a short conversation about the issues with which I was dealing. My sense is that the line between helpful and intrusive is going to be very thin and contingent. I find enough value in one not to wall myself off from the other.

Ehren - Right, I think Twitter and other social media will continue to evolve more sophisticated versions of Block in order to keep the signal-to-noise ratio reasonable. I don't think that will take the form of strict community standards, though, any more than we have strict community standards for email or blogging. Twitter's a medium rather than a genre, and different people will find different genres acceptable. Since Twitter's charm rests in part on its ability to crosswire different discourses and communities, creating a normalized standard that reaches across all communities would be really difficult. I can imagine Twitter (or a Twitter client) allowing you to create different groups representing different communities, then applying different filters to each.

Konstanze said...

Clay, to your last point, I believe a large appeal of Twitter resides in its lack of rules and standards. The user perceives much freedom in choice, possibly to the point of an "I don't care what you think, I'll drop you" attitude. This empowers the user, gives him/her the feeling of control. It also follows the 'i-trend' which currently dominates consumer electronic devices, etc., i.e. total customization to fit 'my' needs, make me unique.

Twitter let's me customize my own personal community in which followers and followees are my pawns whose fate, with respect to belonging to my realm, I control.

I argue, however, that the above mentioned power dynamics are de facto conscious for most Twitter users. What most users might be more consciously aware of is the opportunity to exchange knowledge/information with others, to take advantage of collective intelligence, and a sense of community belonging and participation sprinkled in with a good dose of existence validation via recognition or social standing within this community.

And then, there is the social capital lens that can be applied to the individual and to the group. Twitter lets us connect with other individuals across the globe. Most new connections will remain weak ties, some will develop into stronger ties. These advantageous network connections have the potential to reduce transaction time (of any given undertaking, quest, task, or project) or improve its outcome and, thus, can be of immense value to an individual and/or to the community as a whole.

Personal and/or community advantage in one or several of these ways (and I also include the endorphin blast caused by altruism here*) contributes to what makes Twitter tick. I might argue that Twitter objectified a rhetorical situation that existed but whose exigence had not found a fitting response, until now...

*Time's valid question: If a desired 'rush' results from an altruistic act, is it still pure altruism?