Of all the social media platforms, Twitter has the distinction of being the most personal. What does that mean for your brand?

Twitter birdTwitter officially launched in Singapore today with a media briefing and cocktail event at The Bank Bar + Bistro. Although Singaporeans have been using Twitter for years, the “launch” marks the introduction of advertising opportunities on Twitter, such as promoted tweets, trends and handles.

Avid Twitter users who are anxious at the idea that their timelines will soon be filled with irrelevant ads need not fear. Twitter ads are designed not to be intrusive and will only appear to audiences for whom the ad is relevant. (At least that’s the promise.) Meanwhile, there are probably marketers out there rubbing their hands together thinking, “Yes! Another channel to blast out my message.”

As a digital marketer and social media practitioner, “blast” is a word I have come to despise. We are frequently asked to “blast” ad messages out to consumers, as if campaigns were grenades pitched into crowds of people, hoping that among them are the right target audience and that our ads will enter their brains like shrapnel. (Everyone for whom the ad has no relevance is simply collateral damage.) Those people completely miss the point of social media.

You don’t “blast” messages in social media. (That’s what print and television do.) Social media is a conversation medium, a channel to interact with consumers on a personal level. And arguably no other platform does that better than Twitter.

SingTel + Twitter

SingTel has been using Twitter since last year through two handles @SingTel and @SingTelSupport, the latter dedicated to customer care. As of this writing, SingTel has over 9,000 followers combined. As the number of followers grow, the opportunity to share marketing messages also increases.

But the real opportunity is in allowing consumers the chance to experience a friendlier, warmer, more human SingTel. Due to its size and market dominance, it is fair to say SingTel does not come up tops on your list of brands to have a conversation with. Twitter gives even a monolithic brand like SingTel the chance to change that.

SingTelSupport Twitter

This is why we made the decision to interact with customers through individual Twitter handles, showing customers that when you interact with SingTel, you are dealing with a real human being, not a faceless corporation. Now SingTel can delight consumers not just through high profile campaigns like the SingTel-staged surprise live performance of K-pop band 2NE1 at Clarke Quay last year, but also through small, everyday interactions with customers.

Very recently, Singapore actor and performer Hossan Leong had trouble with his home broadband connection and decided to tweet:

Hossan-SingTel 01

Sahgiel, one of SingTel’s customer care staff who monitors social media chatter relating to SingTel daily, responded within minutes. This led to an arrangement for repair work to be done shortly thereafter.

Hossan-SingTel 02

Not only does this case demonstrate the effectiveness of Twitter as a customer support channel but it also illustrates how a negative experience can be transformed into a positive. (And all of Hossan’s 15,000 followers got to witness it.)

We all need the Human Touch

My favorite example of giving SingTel the human touch through Twitter happened just last week.  A young woman complained about her mobile reception through Twitter, which prompted another SingTel staff member to respond.

Caroline 01a

Through this exchange, Caroline informs the customer of recent upgrade work and provides a link to where Singtel reports its network enhancements on a regular basis. But in this case, her timely interaction also sparked a new conversation between the customer and another friend.

Caroline 01b

While “a bit stalkerish but efficient” isn’t exactly the most glowing of endorsements, in social media that’s about as good as it gets. The conversation then goes into how hard SingTel’s customer care team works, noticing their “crazy hours” and using “wow” and “whoa” in appreciation.

Caroline 02a

What started out as a complaint about SingTel becomes a conversation about how the company is “stepping up” its customer service.

Finally, one of the women realizes that Caroline is most likely following the whole exchange. Caroline then humbly interjects “Yes I am :)”

Caroline 02b

The fact that a brand’s tweets can be promoted as a paid ad doesn’t change the rules of social media. Twitter represents a marvelous opportunity for brands who appreciate its value – not as a medium to “spam” ad messages but as a channel for meaningful dialogue with consumers.

Chances are, your consumers are talking about your brand right now. Are you ready to be part of the conversation?

ADDENDUM:

You can find Marketing Interactive‘s coverage of Twitter’s Singapore launch here.

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