Twitter: Congrats, thank you and WTF?

Summary:Twitter's well-planned and highly successful IPO puts them in a great position. But there is a glaring lack that can ultimately jeopardize that position if they don't fix it. That would be...read on.

Let me just say it upfront. Despite the title, there is an actual underlying logic and an orderly reason for the title. Please bear with me and it will be clear, I think, rather quickly, whether you agree with me or not. 

Let’s get into it.

Congrats

As anyone with a pulse knows, Twitter had a highly successful IPO two weeks ago. What that means is that the company that owns a very important communications channel now has a lot of money and an obligation to grow and develop in the next few years into something that many can foresee and otherwise we can at least find a reason to use.

The details, for those of you who may not know them, of their IPO, are:

  1. The first day of trading closed at around $40.00 per share, well above their $17/$20 initial price
  2. Those shareholders who have large blocks of stock are locked into not selling for 181 days post-IPO
  3. Its current market value is somewhat north of $22 billion
  4. Random fact: Twitter’s IPO created 1600 millionaires (for now)

This portends good things for Twitter, which isn’t profitable yet, but is also a long way from the 2006 thinking about Twitter, which was “it seems cool but I’m not sure what it does? Or what it can do?”  I remember seeing the marketing possibilities early on, teaching it in a class on CRM back in 2006 or 2007, but I didn’t foresee what a major player it would become.  

So first, congratulations to Twitter. A well deserved successful IPO because of a unique idea that caught on and has not only gotten 230 million people involved in using it (remember this for later) but also has become a primary communications channel for everything from news outlets to emergency response teams. It has even become a cultural icon via its use of hashtags as you can see in this awesome Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake routine on the Jimmy Fallon show. 

Thanks

I also want to personally thank Twitter for helping me out about 3 weeks ago when I was hacked by a highly professional group of hackers are known to hack celebrity accounts.  I am so honored. Thank you so much.

I won’t mention them because they don’t deserve to be given any PR.  While I was on a plane to Seattle, a five hour flight, I was hacked not just by having my password broken but also with my email replaced on my account. 

For those of you who have never been through this, it’s easy enough to replace a stolen password.  That can be done automatically. But Twitter bases everything they do with you on the email address associated with the Twitter user ID. If the hackers can separate the email you used from the account and reroute the account to another email, it becomes impossible under Twitters automated schema to do anything about it because they will continually inform you that they “have no record of this email associated with this user id.”

So, you figure, what about a phone call to customer service then? How about that? That can handle it right?

Right, if there was a customer service to call. It took me two hours once I landed just to find a phone number, and once I called it, it told me that there is no customer service for end users.  So this was a phone number that is there to tell you not to call.  Which left me completely at odds.

Except….

I’m an influential person from what I’m told.  And I hope a nice person that has always had his friends’ backs. So I went onto Facebook to outline my problem and see what could be done.  Several of my friends who responded (and there were a lot) sent messages to Twitter influentials who were told (to summarize the several notes that I saw) that “(Twitter) seems to be interested in CRM and this guy is a very influential guy in CRM so you don’t want him to be pissed off.”

One of the emails bore fruit (thank you Marcus Nelson) and a very influential person, who is also a very nice person, went to Biz Stone’s troubleshooting team (NOTE AND HINT: All major companies have a troubleshooting team that reports to the CEO or President of the company. You call the HQ and ask for them. In this case, you couldn’t) and got the problem handled in 3 hours including reassociating the email to the account and securing the account (I’m not sure what that means, but it was reassuring).  Problem solved.

So, for that, thank you Twitter (and the influential person who shall remain nameless because he shouldn’t be besieged by anyone) for helping me out. I truly appreciate your efforts and your quick response once the Biz Stone team was alerted.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

WTF?

But that raises a really big question.  What about those kinds of instances and many other things that can be problematic with Twitter that can’t be solved with an automated system? What about the bulk of Twitter users who aren’t influential?  What about no customer service for end users?

They might be the only public company that doesn’t have a customer service department for end users or even an easily available phone number for reaching someone.  

This is a BIG problem for Twitter that they have to resolve.  They might be the only public company that I am aware of that doesn’t have a customer service department for end users or even an easily available phone number for reaching someone at a minimum.  

When they say they have no customer service for end users, they are not only missing the point but making an error that can ultimately hurt them badly. 

There is a simple logic in all this. The end users are the reason that they could go public.  As is a well known fact, this is a revenue starved company who needs to step it up and no longer just be a company with a huge revenue producing potential. What attracts businesses to Twitter, using things like sponsored tweets etc.  is one simple thing.  Access to a sortable, somewhat filterable, end user base of 230,000,000 people.  Plus the ability to know what that end user is thinking about their brand and to be able to bi-directionally communicate with that end user.  Without that 230 million, Twitter is nothing.  Yet, they don’t have the means to serve that 230 million – and they say they won’t.  This is coming at a time when Gen Z is leaving Facebook, choosing to use Twitter and Instagram instead – meaning a period of great opportunity for Twitter. Perhaps the best chance for mega success beyond its supporters wildest imaginations. 

But to do that, you have to serve the people who make you what you are.  It isn’t the businesses who provide you with the revenue, it’s the end users those businesses think they can reach – both hear and talk to – the Twitter end users.  As one of my mantras goes, at the end of every B is a C.  Twitter might b seeing itself as a B2B play but it is B2B2C ultimately. 

Take the model of the pharmaceutical industry.  The pharmaceutical sales person knows that in order to get the pharmacies to buy the drugs that they purvey, they need to influence the physicians to want them.  Their brand of meds over someone else’s version of a similar drug. They can’t and don’t sell directly to the pharmacies and chain stores so they go do their rounds to the doctors and get them to recommend the brands. An indirect sales model that works. The one thing the pharmaceutical sales person knows for sure is that they have to take care of the physicians or their lifeline to the pharmacies is cut off.

While it’s not an exact analogy, its damn close. The lifeline to the businesses providing Twitter with its revenue is the Twitter end user. There is no question about that.  It’s a duh thing. Twitter needs to address this. 

In order to address this, it is obvious (to me at least) that having a customer service department at some level for end users is a no brainer.  Because of the scope/scale of Twitter usage in a day which according to the IPO filing is 500 million, just by volume alone, there are going to be problems that range from what happened to me to disputes over accounts to simply occasional downtime that has to be addressed via something other than Twitter. 

Plus, they are now a public company. Their obligation to their base, if it weren’t obvious before, should be now.  Or that public offering won’t look quite as good in years to come.

Look, I am a Twitter user. I love it for what it does and have seen value in it for 7 years. So, I’m not bashing it. They helped me out. They had a successful IPO. I only wish them the best. But the lack of a customer service department for end users?  That’s inexcusable at this juncture. So, Twitter, please accept my congratulations, my thanks and get this customer service thing straightened away.  There’s a much bigger thanks and congratulations from a lot more people awaiting that one. 

Topics: Tech Industry

About

In addition to being the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light: Social CRM Strategies, Tools, and Techniques for Engaging Your Customers Paul Greenberg is President of The 56 Group, LLC, a customer strategy consulting firm, focused on cutting edge CRM strategic services and a founding partner of the CRM training company, BP... Full Bio

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