Friday, September 23, 2011

Twitter Spies

On Tuesday night, I organized a Mom's Night Out for all the moms in my daughter's kindergarten class. Out of twenty families, twelve moms came, which was awesome. Who knew there were so many moms beside me who wanted to get out of the house for some quality girl time?

Anyway, I knew only five of the women in attendance, so it was fascinating to meet new people and hear about paths and careers. We had eight different countries represented, and twelve different careers. Let's see, we had neurobiology, pediatric anesthesiology, higher education, a stay at home mom, a medical writer, a novelist and others.

But there was one job that I found particularly interesting, and, when I heard about it, I knew that was going to be the topic of my blog post today.

What was that job I found so interesting and relevant? Well, I'll fill you in…

The gal worked for a company that had developed software to search the internet for mentions of their clients, which were usually big companies. She said that their number one place to find mentions was on twitter. Yes, that's right, there are companies whose business it is to track every single tweet for tweets of interest. I think she said there were something like 98,000 tweets a second worldwide. I can't remember the exact number, but it was huge.

Apparently, companies like Microsoft and American Express (and smaller ones) will pay companies like hers to keep them updated on what their customers are saying about them. Most interestingly, they are often most concerned with people saying bad things about them so they can fix it.

The mom then went to say that with a major company, if you tweet about a problem you are having with them, you will get a response within hours. Their software will find that tweet, filter it, report it back to whoever is in charge of responding, and they will track you down via your tweet and respond to your concern.

When we all expressed surprise to hear then, she told us that when she was trying to get moving quotes to move cross country in August, she couldn't get a response from one of the companies she was trying to get a bid from. She finally went on twitter and tweeted about it. Guess what? Within two hours the company had contacted her.

They also track facebook, blogs, and everything else posted anywhere that isn't protected from public viewing. So, how about that? Sure, we always hear warnings about remembering that whatever you post on the internet can be seen by anyone, but I'd never contemplated it on this level—that within two hours, the object of your mention will know exactly what you said and how to find you to reply.

On the one hand, I think that's so cool. I'm totally tempted to test it by making up a negative tweet about American Express and see if I really get a response.  It makes me wonder whether there might be an application for this in the writing world. If a fan tweeted about an author or a book, would they be psyched or freaked out if the author responded personally within hours? And if author started doing that, would it help their sales? Would it help their writing, if they could see every good and bad thing everyone was saying everywhere? Or would it hamstring them until they couldn't write a single word? Is there at point at which customers simply want a place to vent or cheer and they don't want to have to hear back from the object of their discussion?  What do you guys think?

And if anyone tests it and gets a response from a company, let us know!


Angie Fox said...

That is so interesting. You know, I tweeted about Trader Joe's a few weeks back - said something about how I'd gone to the happiest place on earth that a.m. I was surprised to see a RT by a "St. Louis Buys" site that seemed to be one of those tracking companies. Now I wonder...

Michelle Rowen said...

I tweeted that I found it creepy that H&M used "Girls on Film" as the background music for a commercial with little kids in it. H&M tweeted me back apologizing for offending me and that they were pulling the commercials. I guess that was a common complaint!

For discussion about my books, I only see the ones that have my @ info in them. I'd never just search for my name. Too scary sometimes! ;)

Stephanie Rowe said...

Wow, Michelle, that's so interesting! I guess it really does happen! Did you think that was cool when H & M tweeted you back, or did feel like you were being stalked.

Interesting, Angie as well. I guess they really do know all we do!

Kylie said...

I do have first hand experience with this . . . going through Customer Serivce hell with Sears. I could get nowhere. My daughter Tweeted. Got a call almost instantly. They still have not satisfied me (I'm on fridge #3 right now and they keep sending me scratch-and-dents) and I've decided to send the stupid fridge back and get a full refund. But yes, Tweeted did make a difference. At least I heard from someone. An uncooperative someone, but a someone!

Sharon said...

scary! I didn't realize that. In an age when you can't get live person when you call a company this might be the only way. Maybe I need to get a twitter account . Yeah, I'm out of the loop, but who has time to tweet and FB?

I don't think I would like it if someone or some company contacted me about a comment that wasn't made to them directly. It kind of screams "I am spying on you!". Why can't they just answer direct questions and phone calls ?

If I post a review and the author contacts me, then that is okay cause I put it out there for anyone to see. Luckily I've only got one nasty email and that was from a relative of the author .