RIP Twitter. Facebook is the Future of Social Customer Service.

Editor’s Note: This is a two-part series on the future of Social Customer Service for airlines. Part 2 explores the innovative ways in which Facebook — and Facebook Messenger — will change the future of customer service. 

It’s time to upend some common assumptions.

We’ve known for a while that airlines are one of the Top 3 most socially responsive “industries” on social media. That certainly is still true. A bigger myth that has been perpetuated over the last few years, is that Twitter is most suited to this goal.

The Trouble with Twitter

Those who’ve followed the evolution of social customer service are certainly correct in their understanding that Twitter is well-suited to it — it reduces clutter better than Facebook, enabling one-to-one interactions with brands; it’s real-time and allows tracking of events better; it allows easy switching between public and DM (Direct Message) modes; its introduction of hashtags introduced a novel way of tracking real-time, subject-specific conversations.

It seems, however, that Twitter has been caught out on three counts:

First, trolls reside on Twitter much more than on Facebook. Twitter knows it, and has done very little to expunge them, or control their proliferation. From myriad fields — most of all politics, terrorism, to sundry matters — trolls have made Twitter their own playing ground.

Second, Twitter hasn’t innovated as well as Facebook has. I cannot, for instance, remember the last truly remarkable product/feature introduction by Twitter. Facebook introduces something new — even if it’s minor — every other week these days. It shows that they’re on their toes. Twitter meanwhile is stagnating in a curious morass of mediocrity. All you remember is: web app design changes that everyone hated (I still can’t find where various options are); the native Mac App hasn’t been updated in ages; third-party developers who outdid Twitter’s apps throttled by the company. It has no seemingly viable plan for driving up user numbers, revenues and profits. No wonder its CEO recently stepped down.

Third, Facebook is where — quite literally — the entire internet is. Where Twitter has 302 million monthly active users, Facebook sits pretty with a mind-warping 1.44 billion monthly active users. By all counts, Facebook marches forward in its quest to connect the entire world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it succeeded. Twitter is stagnating, with little indication of what direction it wants to take. The conversations these days on Twitter are quieter; there are fewer jokes; even media folks only occasionally plug their stories before steering clear of the trolls. Even I, an ardent follower of Twitter since 2009, find myself at its lowest ebb in 2015. It’s true for those whom I used to follow as well. (If only someone would measure tweet activity over the years, I’d suspect this empirical view would be supported by numbers.)

Is Twitter Customer Service Dead?

Recent research indicates that brands are not doing enough to respond to queries on Twitter. The opposite story is true of Facebook. For instance, in Q1 2015, while airlines responded to 85.5% questions on Twitter, they responded to only 45.4% on Facebook. It is true that, statistically speaking, Twitter receives a much larger volume of queries than Facebook does, but that does not explain away why response rates on Twitter are low across all industries as compared to Facebook. For example, Telecoms responded to 88% of their 500,000 Facebook queries, but only 46% of their 1.5m Twitter queries. If Twitter was working better, everyone would do more. Something doesn’t add up.

Twitter, it must be lamented, has done nothing at all to make the life of those receiving queries on Twitter any easier — neither with features, nor with reduction of trolls, nor by inviting new audiences.

Consider this: Where Twitter hasn’t yet managed to greatly cross the 300 million active users mark, Facebook has a portfolio of products that boggle the mind: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp. Three heavyweights that continue to grow in popularity each month. And now that Facebook has the users, the attention, the features, it’s going to tighten the screws on Twitter and shove it out of the Social Customer Service game.

[Tomorrow’s article will detail what Facebook is doing to conquer Social Customer Service, and what airlines need to know about it.]

Do you agree that Twitter is losing the social customer service battle? Or do you think it’s still going to remain the number one preference of airlines and airline passengers? Tell us in the comments below or @simpliflying

Shubhodeep Pal

Shubhodeep Pal

Former VP, Products and Operations at SimpliFlying
Shubhodeep Pal was leading SimpliFlying's Research, Product Development, Marketing and Business Development from December 2010 to December 2017 from the headquarters in Singapore. He has spoken at airline conferences and delivered training workshops for senior aviation executives. He has also appeared on television interviews and been quoted in publications such as the Wall Street Journal. His writings have appeared extensively on SimpliFlying and respected industry outlets such as Airlinetrends, Tnooz, Airport World, Low Cost and Regional Airline Business Magazine and Loyalty360. In a previous role, he also conducted a workshop on social media at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore.
Shubhodeep Pal
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Showing 2 comments
  • Sean Fleming
    Reply

    Unless I missed it, you don’t appear to mention Twitter’s announcement that, as of July, it is lifting the 140 character limit from direct messages. That’s interesting on a couple of levels. First, 140 characters is fundamental part of Twitter’s identity. So, it’s kinda significant that they’re doing this, and it begs the question why. It’s a customer service play aimed at brands using Twitter, imo. Will it work..? Who knows. But you ought to have included it here, really.

    On a separate point, I don’t see what the prevalence of trolls on Twitter has to do with customer service provision. To say that trolls have made Twitter their playground is a very partial viewpoint. You need to offer up some evidence, not anecdotes or opinions, for claims like that.

  • willy678
    Reply

    Great article, Shubhodeep — it inspired me to write one. But I think there is one reversal in the stats you cite. You say: “airlines responded to 85.5% questions on Twitter, they responded to only 45.4% on Facebook”.

    I think you meant it exactly the other way around.
    It was fixed here: Facebook & Twitter: Customer Service Experience Collides

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