For a long time, Twitter’s reverse-chronological order timeline has been considered the social media equivalent of the third rail: messing with it in any way, shape, or form would have catastrophic consequences. Social media pundits have predicted a mass exodus of the services’ fanatically loyal user base and that the tentative steps Twitter has made toward effective monetization will be all for naught.
But changes at Twitter have to happen. The social media platform has some well-established systemic problems. While it has proven to be a very effective marketing tool and customer service channel for some brands, the majority of small businesses have a hard time making themselves heard on the site. While Twitter has a reported 974 million users, almost half of those users have never Tweeted at all. After ten years in existence, Twitter’s interface is still considered to be confusing and difficult to navigate. And so Twitter’s done what no one thought they should do: they’ve adopted an algorithmically-driven timeline display.
What does that mean, exactly? Right now, Twitter is selecting a few Tweets – namely those that received a lot of engagement in terms of replies, retweets, and favorites – and displaying those at the top of users’ timeline when they log into Twitter. These Tweets are from accounts users follow, with the logic being that the users may have missed seeing them while they were away from Twitter.
From a marketing perspective, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. If it’s your company’s content or a positive Tweet about the brand garnering all this engagement, nothing could be better than having these Tweets elevated to the top of your follower’s timeline.
But what happens when a user who has a significant number of followers has a beef with your company? Taking their complaint to Twitter and leveraging the loyalty of the masses to spread their discontent can elevate a relatively small issue into a huge PR concern, as this Tweet is now the first thing users will see on their timelines.
Knowing this means that monitoring and responding to Twitter as a customer service channel is a renewed priority for all business owners; inattention to this channel can allow complaints to spiral out of control rapidly. If we’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that the only way to defuse an impending crisis is prompt, professional responses to customer complaints. If you don’t have a strategy to provide those prompt, professional responses, the time to develop one is now, before a problem arises. And keep an eye on your Twitter notifications. You don’t want to be surprised by learning your customer service issues are the first thing users are reading!