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The Web is Approaching “Real Time” and You’d Better Keep Up!

By on 15. December 2009

Your customers are quickly getting used to real time interaction on the web with so called social media. They are expecting you to do so too. You should manage that expectation and let them know how you communicate and how quickly you will respond to comments and questions.

In this article we will explore what “real time” means and how you can use it.

Talking to another person over the phone is real time communication. Email isn’t. Most of the web has not been real time up to now: when a story, a message or a comment is published online most readers won’t get to read it immediately and it will not show up in search results immediately either. This is changing. Twitter and Facebook updates have already been available to followers in real time for a while. Now they can be found in real time in Google and Bing searches as well. For example if you search for “Obama” you can follow what people are saying on twitter, facebook and other sites right now and the results are constantly being updated.

Example, a real time search on “Obama”:

News and personal communication

For news it is easy to see what real time means. When a news story breaks you can often get more timely information from twitter than from traditional news outlets. This kind of news has only just started and will grow significantly in importance. Twitter user @queenrania (Queen Rania of Jordan) called this shift “Real time is the new Prime Time” at the conference called LeWeb.

Individual people’s online messages are also available instantly. They may not be relevant to the general public but they are very relevant for the people who follow them and to the people interested in the topic they are talking about. That topic may very well be your company!

Companies such as Zappos and Comcast already monitor the web in real time and respond to people who ask questions or make comments about them.


Comcast responds to a question on Twitter

Comcast responds to a question on Twitter

Example: Comcast responds to a question on Twitter
For more examples see: http://goodbrandsontwitter.com/

The biggest change: learn to be reactive!

It is clear that things change on the web. The speed at which things change is increasing. Blogging took several years to catch on, twitter only about 2 years to become mainstream and certain facebook apps are now catching on in a matter of weeks. Most people in their twenties and all kids under 20 don’t consider social media tools a new way of interacting anymore: it is just a normal thing for them.

This means that planning ahead is dead. Get used to it. You can’t plan a strategy to implement the presence of your company on a social media platform like twitter anymore. New platforms, tools and applications are constantly being introduced and the way that your customers use those tools changes in an unpredictable manner.

You need to learn to be reactive! Instead of planning a project to target one or a few platforms, set up a team of social media savvy people who can communicate with your customers wherever they are. Interacting with your customers online is not a project, it is an ongoing engagement.

Some good news: Social Media is more scalable than a call center. Instead of waiting for the customer to call you and answer the same question 80% of the time, when you answer a question on twitter it is likely that other customers who have the same question will find it so you don’t have to individually serve them. A nice side effect of this is that people will get a positive image about your brand by reading how you interact with your customers. (You are friendly to them, aren’t you?)

Focus on the message, then look where your customers are and talk to them. The platform is irrelevant.

Word of mouth has the highest conversion rate of any type of advertising. Engage with your customers properly and word of mouth spreads quickly and with ease.


Word of mouth conversion

Word of mouth conversion

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