Another day, another corporate social media SNAFU. This time, the transport provider for East Anglia, Greater Anglia, part of the Abellio group. Not of the scale of some of the recent ones, but a telling misunderstanding of the nature of how social networks work.

You can see the gory detail here, but the short version is that when an interested bystander commented on a particular strand of conversation about non-stopping buses, the bystander was asked not to tweet messages to Greater Anglia’s twitter followers.

If you don’t understand why that’s a problem, you probably don’t use Twitter that much. And if you don’t use Twitter much or at all, you’ll struggle to get your head around it.

What seems to be going on here, from an outsiders perspective, is that the transport company has seen Twitter as just another customer contact “channel”. Like the phone, or email or whatever else. As such, they appear to have developed “policies” that have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of a public, social network. Simply put, Twitter just doesn’t work like email.

For as long as customer experience organisations try to shoehorn new channels into existing processes, they’ll always run the risk of appearing at best a little silly, and at worst losing credibility and reputation with their customers and outsiders alike.

As I recently argued on CIO’s website, new networks and means of communication are often taken to by customers as a way of bypassing the “Press 1 to enter the pit of hell” mechanisation that is so common is so much of what trades under the name of customer service. If you’re not serious about it, it might be the best option to not engage, rather than to do it in ways that don’t work in the medium.

In the meantime, we’re all learning. Their are no right or wrong ways. But trying to impose old models on these new forms of communication is a risky approach. And as we’re all learning, that learning needs to be at all levels – and, surprise surprise, the Abellio CEO is yet another who is absent when it comes to social networks.

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