Guest Blogger

Twitter has recently introduced improvements to their Direct Messaging (DM) functionality to help businesses offer an improved customer experience (CX) when customers use Twitter to get in touch. The new tools allow a DM button to be offered, allowing quick access to DM and when the DM window appears, the brand can populate it with information and options. In short, it’s a lot easier for customers to send private messages and brands can offer more options to help.

Twitter says that they have spent a lot of time planning these new features, but to my mind it seems like they are late to the party. Customers have been extensively using Twitter to contact brands and ask for support for at least five years so it’s surprising that they took this long to improve the interface. It was only recently that they removed the need for users to be following each other to send DMs, which was a major issue for brands that wanted to support customers using Twitter.

In contrast, Facebook Messenger has Artificial Intelligence (AI) so that brands can offer a conversation with customers that can lead to transactions, without the need for agents or any contact centre support. This might sound like something that only major brands would deploy, but imagine you run a single flower store. You can’t afford to run a contact centre and not everyone wants to phone the store to place an order, especially younger customers. With the tools Facebook is offering to businesses, even a small store like this can now offer text-based customer service and take orders from customers, and all using the Facebook AI system.

Research conducted by Twitter says that customers who use their social network to contact brands, and where the brand engages them on Twitter, spend 3-20% more on products and services from those companies. With statistics like this, I am left wondering why Twitter has not boosted the options for a great customer experience earlier. Instead they have invested in the woeful ‘Moments’ system and built a big network of Vine filmmakers only to now choose to close the entire network down. Will their Periscope live video streaming service suffer the same fate?

You don’t need to be a sociologist to see that the way humans communicate has dramatically evolved in the past decade. The combination of the mobile Internet and social networks has created a much more text-focused style of communication – in fact I can’t even remember the last voice call I made on my mobile phone because both my family and business contacts use tools like WhatsApp as the primary channel of communication today.

Twitter should have been on top of these changes. The network has grown to influence the way that many people interact with other forms of media – like radio and TV – and brands too. So why has it taken until now for Twitter to confirm that these B2C interactions are actually important for the network?

If Twitter wants to remain relevant they need to accept that the network has a distinct role and purpose and this is around conversation. Brands want to build better ongoing relationships with customers and Twitter remains a very easy platform for two-way conversations to be managed. However, other more visual networks, such as Snapchat and Instagram, could easily become the hub of customer conversations if Twitter is not careful. If they lose celebrity users to the trolls and brands start dropping out to focus on other networks then what is left? Journalists talking to other journalists?

These new features are good news for those of us who find Twitter a useful way to interact with brands, but they are not enough. Twitter needs to think and act fast if they don’t want to become the next Myspace.

I am still on Twitter. Tweet me there on @markhillary if you have any thoughts about this, or leave a comment here on the blog.

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