Over the weekend I noticed that Mercury Energy was merrily tweeting away, and this caught my attention because (a) I hadn’t noticed this account before and (b) it was the weekend when everyone has brunch and reads newspapers (unless they have small children in which case they get busy with Special Agent Oso). Not just prescheduled content either – engaging with others and retweeting tweets.

Also over the weekend there was a large earthquake aftershock in Christchurch. Some brands were quickly tweeting their concern and support for the Christchurch community, despite that it occurred ‘afterhours’ (on Saturday evening).  The main telcos were also quick to provide infrastructure updates which are vital services particularly in a crisis situation as we saw with the February earthquake.

This raises the question, should brands be active on Twitter and in social media outside of normal business hours? Does the community expect to receive responses in the evenings, weekends and public holidays?

For some organisations, its an important part of their customer engagement. Its also increasingly becoming a point of competitive advantage.
Take for example the conversation below between Vaughn Davis and Telecom NZ (start at the bottom). Vaughn was overseas and having trouble with his email on his heritage edition iPad connected via Vodafone. Not a particularly unusual conversation for a telco and a customer – except that it was taking place at 10:15pm on a Tuesday night.
Vodafone did not respond to Vaughn’s request for help until the following day, and in the meantime the Telecom team jumped in to see what they could do to help (note there was a lot of techo g33k tweets back and forth that went on to diagnose the issue which are not shown here). Had that been a customer looking to switch telcos, this could potentially have been a strong case for customer acquisition. It was also observed by the Twitter community following both @vaughndavis and @TelecomNZ, all of whom are avid consumers of telco services and data. Hmmmmm.
















Some brands will state quite clearly on their social media profiles that their accounts are only monitored during normal business hours. Which is fine – but many people don’t ever go to the Twitter page of the account due to the proliferation of apps used for Twitter, so its questionable how many people will actually see this attempted disclaimer. Customers (or potential customers!) may have their tweet go unanswered til the next business day by which time they may well have forgotten what it was about. Or have ranted about it on their blog.

I’ve seen other brands ‘sign out’ each evening with a farewell tweet to signal they are going off duty. This creates a pattern of activity but if you miss the tweet then you won’t know whether they are on duty or off duty until your tweet is meet with deafening silence.

But do we even need or want it – other than in times of crisis? I’ve observed brands posting content and/or responding to tweets/Facebook posts during evenings or over the weekends, and generally speaking the community seems to be non plussed whether it happens within an hour of posting or the next day (unless you are @vaughndavis). If it is urgent, then can’t you call an 0800 number and speak to an actual human at the call centre? Maybe thats part of the attraction of social media – you’ll be able to ask your question and chat with a human who is in all likelihood a decent Kiwi, all in real time. No cut offs, no hold music, no language barriers, and maybe even your mates can chip in and help you too. Unfortunately many organisations (particularly in NZ) are not yet fully resourced to be able to monitor and respond to social media requests after normal business hours, although this will change as the size of the local community grows as we have seen overseas, and social business is accepted.

We are coming up to one of the longest holiday weekends of the year (whoop!).  Over the Christmas/New Year period the drop in activity from brands was quite noticeable, so it will be interesting to see if the same happens over Easter. I also observed comments from the community that any ‘marketing’ or ‘sales’ content (no matter how cleverly disguised) was not appropriate during the holidays – its a holiday for Gods sake!

What about you – do you expect brands to be available on Twitter and Facebook after hours or during public holidays to engage with you?


Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Nice post. It really is interesting to see that quite a few people have an expectation that if they @mention a business on Twitter, they should get a timely response. Often they seem to not even consider the time of day or the day of the week. They then get angry or frustrated when there’s no response as they believe that the company is ignoring them.

    I’ve quietly observed this a few times. One time was when a Twitter user was asking the Countdown Twitter account a question. They started with a question related to an issue they were having with Countdown’s online shopping service. They didn’t receive a response after 30 minutes so the next two Tweets were much more negative and recommended that people shouldn’t use Countdown’s online shopping service as it was flawed. The fourth and final Tweet (again @mentioning Countdown) was more aggressive again and directed at the Countdown website as a whole.

    There were two problems with this – one is that the Twitter user’s first Tweet was at 10pm on a Monday night and their last was at 10:50pm. The second was that Countdown weren’t even actively using their Twitter account – they had simply reserved the name to stop others taking it (or so that they could start using it in the future).

    I think in this scenario the problem stemmed from the perception that if a company provides a 24 hour service, they should have 24 hour support. As anyone can use Countdown’s online shopping at any time of the day, it’s fair to say that shoppers could experience problems at any time of the day and it may even be fair to say that support should be on hand – particularly when large online financial transactions are at stake.

    The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Countdown have a Twitter account that tells people to “Follow us to hear about great deals and product offers” and yet the account is protected so that only those with permission can view the Tweets. As far as the original user was concerned – Countdown could have been in active Twitter conversations with others and ignoring the user. With protected and hidden Tweets, it’s difficult to tell (although to be fair to Countdown, further examination shows the account has only 1 follower and isn’t following any other accounts itself so is clearly not in use despite the Twitter bio).

    This also proves that which we already know – that many Twitter users see brand-based Twitter accounts as an extension or even a replacement of the traditional customer support phone line rather than as marketing channels.

    As a side-note, in my experience this expectation of quick responses is greater with Twitter than it is with Facebook. Perhaps this is because Tweets are much more time-based and very quickly fade into the background in a user’s timeline. The original Tweeter may have a certain level of anxiety related to the fact that if their Tweet isn’t noticed early on, it will be lost in the perceived virtual river of Tweets.

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Brands, Social Media, Twitter


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