Is Twitter a Customer Service or a Marketing Channel?

Our partner J.D. Power & Associates recently published their 2013 Social Media Benchmark Study of consumer perception toward companies and their use of social media. J.D. Power surveyed two kinds of social interactions—digital marketing and customer service.

To build on their findings, I took a look at this same question but through a different lens. At NetBase we are currently in beta testing with our Digital Channel Intelligence solution for Twitter. Customers had been asking for a way to measure their effectiveness in the same two areas J.D. Power reported on. So NetBase is gearing up to offer two key metrics as part of NetBase Digital Channel Intelligence for Twitter:

1] Post Engagement – The rate at which followers interact with a tweet, which basically measures the effectiveness of Twitter marketing. It’s the (Number of Retweets + Number of Replies) / Number of Brand Tweets. In a nutshell, it measures how much consumers respond to the company’s tweets.

2] Response Rate – The rate at which the company responds to consumer-originated tweets. This basically measures customer service responsiveness.

Think of these rates as measures of the dialogue between the consumer and the company. Consistent and engaged communication would mean high scores for both rates.

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As my readers my know, I love chocolate, so I was eager to test this capability and find out which chocolate company has the highest Post Engagement (digital marketing effectiveness) and Response Rate (customer service responsiveness).

What I found out is chocolate companies seem to be using their Twitter handles primarily for one or the other (digital marketing vs. customer service) but not both. You can see that in the graph presented here. It covers the last month of tweets made by each Twitter handle. The size of the bubble corresponds to the number of tweets the brand authored in the past month.

TCHO seems the best from a customer-service standpoint. To see this, look at the x-axis that shows the Response Rate. TCHO had the highest rate of 39% but their Post Engagement is the lowest of all at 1. The 39% rate means TCHO has responded to 39% of the tweets authored by consumers who mention @TCHOchocolate. I think this makes sense. TCHO has strong roots in technology, having been founded in San Francisco. They’re social-media savvy. But I’m surprised they don’t also have a strong Post Engagement since their founders were from the marketing-heavy Wired magazine.

By contrast, Cadbury seems to be the one with the strongest Twitter marketing. That’s because their Post Engagement of 42 is higher than the other brands. But their Response Rate is 1%, a low score that ties with Lindt and Dove. Cadbury’s Post Engagement of 42 means that, on average, every time Cadbury tweets, 42 people retweet or reply to Cadbury. Considering that the analysis timeframe straddles Easter, it sort of makes sense for Cadbury’s marketing to have performed the best since they’re the chocolate company that most associates itself with Easter, in my opinion.

The J.D. Power study shows that six industries (airline, auto, banking, credit card, telecom and utility) are showing varying levels of success in balancing the use of social media for marketing and customer service. I think our data from the Twitter Digital Channel Intelligence shows the same thing in the chocolate industry.

I think there’s an opportunity for a chocolate company to invest in doing a good job at both customer service and marketing in social media. I feel like I’m more likely to buy from companies that offer good customer service. And according to J.D. Power, their “study finds a correlation between overall satisfaction with a company’s social marketing efforts and consumers’ likelihood to purchase and their overall perception of the company” (Source: JD Power & Assoc.).

So chocolate companies: invest more in social media for digital marketing AND customer service and I’ll buy your chocolate. I’d probably buy your chocolate anyway. But maybe I’ll buy more of it.

Discuss This Article

Comments: 4

  • Stuart Clarke says:

    Michael, I wonder if your findings demonstrate that twitter accounts are either ‘owned’ by marketing or customer service but rarely with input from both departments at once?

  • Thanks for your comment Stuart. I wondered that too and I think it’s a good theory. I’m not sure though because look at Hershey’s and Lindt in the graph, both of which have two handles. Hershey’s has @Hersheys and @HersheysKisses. I’d guess that @HersheysKisses is more likely to be owned by marketing than customer service. It’s harder to guess about @Hersheys. Either way, @HersheysKisses measures higher on Response Rate (i.e. customer service responsiveness) than @Hersheys but lower on Post Engagement (marketing effectiveness). So I’m not sure. We’d probably need to look at more data over different time frames.

    But one takeaway I’d make from your comment is that companies need to figure out how to provide both customer service and marketing on a single handle. We faced this in the early days of the web where a single homepage had to serve as a marketing a customer service channel. It was solved by having different sections on a website. Same thing with 800 numbers where it was solved by the automated voice attendant saying “press one for sales, two for customer support”.

    Shameless plug: NetBase is doing it’s part to offer publishing capabilities that allow for shared governance.

    While I’ve got everyone’s attention, I’ll add one other follow-up data point. After authoring this blog I tweeted to @CadburyUK and @TCHOchocolate to congratulate them on their great marketing effectiveness and responsiveness, respectively. Guess who replied first? @TCHOchocolate, of course. But kudos to @CadburyUK who also did reply, just not as fast (they said “@mosofsky @netbase haha, but we do need to reply to more people! Easter was a tough time to keep up ;)”). Could have been due to timezones though… Either way, I’m impressed with both chocolate companies. Their chocolates serve different roles in my life.

  • Leslie O'Flahavan says:

    Thanks for this interesting article, Michael. The best answer to your question “Is Twitter a Customer Service or a Marketing Channel?” has to be “It’s both.” The customer should have a seamless experience in social media and should receive promotional tweets from Marketing and answers to their questions from Customer Service. I am most interested about how a company staffs social media for Customer Service or for Marketing. Each group has a skill set, and they should do what they do best in Twitter.

  • Thank you for your comment Leslie. I agree with you that Twitter should be both a marketing and customer service channel. What I found remarkable was that none of the chocolate companies are excelling (by my metrics) at both. In other words, none of them are in the upper right quadrant of the bubble chart. I’m looking forward to finding an industry where multiple vendors conduct both marketing and customer service well on Twitter.

    When you say you’re interested in how companies staff social media for Customer Service of for Marketing, what aspect do you find most interesting? It seems like you’re acknowledging they are different skill sets. And would you agree they should be done by different people?

    So then maybe what’s interesting is how they share the common resource. Maybe some companies have different Twitter handles for customer service and marketing. In those cases, which department wins the right to use the proper name as the Twitter handle and which one acquiesces to a modified form of the name? Which department registered the Twitter handle and thus claimed it for use first? Are there some industries where it’s typically one of these departments that adopted earlier? For companies that use one handle, what is the governance structure? What are the patterns and best practices? How does marketing/customer sevice sharing vary across channels (Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Website/800 phone number/etc.).

    What’s the interesting aspect to you Leslie?

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