Want to know which web hosting companies to trust? Ask for a friend’s recommendation. Want to get a peek at how a web host treats their customers? Look at how that business tweets.
I’ve had some unbelievably bad experiences with web hosting companies. Some were bad experiences with otherwise solid hosts. Some were just plain awful, no matter how you look at it. Such hosts must be avoided!
Googling for information about a host often does not give a clear picture, because it’s not hard to find unreasonable complaints – with something as complex as hosting, there are many, many opportunities for frustration and misunderstanding, even if the company has done nothing wrong. On the other hand, good reports may be exaggerated by affiliate marketers hoping to make a sale.
Social Media is a great way for potential customers to check out a company. I like Twitter for this sort of insight, because tweets are easier to skim than pages of forum posts and bad Twitter marketing is so very obviously bad. I trust that I can scan a business’s Twitter stream and tell if tweeters are only trumpeting sales-speak, or if they are using Twitter for the good of their customers.
The murkier Search results are, the more important it is for businesses to diversify their marketing methods: Search is not the only game in town. With creative and attentive use of Social Media, smaller players can edge into good user awareness, and established businesses can display expertise while engaging with unhappy customers before they turn into naysayers. The same consumer who hates the feeling of being marketed to may deeply appreciate receiving attentive customer service.
Come along, as I take a look at Twitter search results for [web host.]
Twitter Search Times Two
There are two kinds of Twitter search, each with different results. The search field at the top of all pages will return the most recent tweets for a search term. This “tweet search” has a top spot for one sponsored tweet. In addition, saw up to three “top tweets.” Top tweets may follow the sponsored tweet, when are especially popular tweets for the term.
When a search term can be exploited for profit, it’s not unusual for many or even most of the tweets in “tweet search” to be commercially oriented spam – murky Search strikes again.
Twitter’s “people search” is a different animal. At the top of the right column after “tweet search” you’ll see “People results for” [search term], with a link to “more people results.“ The destination of the link is a list of the top 20 user names for that search term.
“People search” is harder to spam, because it’s not as dependent on search terms. In “people search” it’s possible for a user to rank at the top of a competitive search term, without that term appearing anywhere in that user’s profile – try searching for [rock star] or [weight loss] and you’ll see what I mean.
Early on, having a search term in a user profile was given more weight. Twitter has gradually increased the importance of user behavior. Spammers come and go. Top “people search” rankings are determined by follower numbers, but getting on those lists can be at least partly related to users associating a term to an established personality or brand.
Different Tweets from Different Peeps
Tweets shown in a search of the most recent tweets will include a lot of hashtags and exact match or nearly exact match results. I saw mostly bloggers, retweets of the odd influencer… and spammers or marketers using lots and lots of keyword-related hashtags. Hashtags are oh-so-handy for sharing a joke or a trend, but spammers love them, too.
Though hashtag terms can be used semi-conversationally by people who want to clue each other in, hashtag spam is all over the place – if it’s added primarily to help the term show up in search, it’s more likely to be spam. If it’s incidental to having something in common, it’s more likely to be legitimately informational. In several searches for [web host] I saw no tweets from the accounts of users who showed up at the top of “people search” results – unlike spammers, they weren’t using hashtagged keywords or crowing about themselves.
If I was in the market for web hosting, I’d skim “recent tweet” search just long enough to recoil from the spam, and then move on to “people” search. The tweets of top “people search” user names are very different from the results of a recent tweets search.
Remember that every niche and every term can be different – you have to look in order to find out.
Top Business Tweeters at a Glance
Twitter’s “people search” results show 20 user names with the most followers for a term. The term I used was [web host.]
More verified or “official” accounts. About five of the top ten were verified or “official” accounts, as were one or two of the bottom ten. Results fluctuated throughout the day.
More Followers than they followback. Some follow back nobody.
All have logo avatars. I saw no elaborate custom backgrounds, but none used the default Twitter background and they all had a coordinated look that complimented the logo.
Hashtag use is less common, almost nonexistent for some user names. When hashtags are used, they are almost exclusively branded terms. The most likely brands were their own brand – [#brandTips] – or conversational tweets about brands that are top household names in the niche – “come see us at #SxSW.”
Very few hashtags for generic terms like #hosting or #server. Top tweeters were not going after loosely targeted terms, though the customers, bloggers and affiliate marketers in their niche may be, elsewhere.
Many, many @username responses. Tweeters responded to @customer needs.
Expressions of personal responsibility. In some companies, individual members of a tweeting team signed each tweet with their initials. There was a nice mix of “I” statements that showed personal commitment and “we” statements that gave a sense of unity.
Though all of these statements do a great job of communicating personal commitment, there isn’t a keyword among them. They won’t show up in a search of recent tweets. They will make an impression on customers:
- “@username I will check into that,”
- “@username I found the source of your problem,”
- “@username I understand that this is frustrating. Thank you for your patience. I am looking into it now.”
Acknowledging Faults. “That’s right, our live search has been down off and on today.”
Limited use of “helper” applications. I saw CoTweet used far more often than other applications. This makes sense, because many of these are huge companies and CoTweet was designed to help teams who take turns tweeting for the same account. In my count, hands-on, application-free tweeting and HootSuite tied for a distant second.
I did not see much use of applications like SocialOomph that got their start mainly as a way of simplifying automated tweeting. At a glance, none of the top ten showed strong signs of automation – it could be there, but it was not obvious.
Availability. Tweeters expressed willingness to do more and learn more. Most gave advice in response to queries and bread-on-the-waters style tips. They interacted.
Openings for Smaller Businesses
Smaller businesses and those just getting started with Twitter often ask how they can get started. Notice that most of the behavior above is not limited to established businesses that can show up at the top of a search. Also notice that these tactics are related to respecting and enjoying customers – the same values that make a difference in face-to-face consumer relations. Twitter is a world of its own, but people are people everywhere.
Image credit – mistermundo