While I applaud your idea, the execution may need some tuning over the course of the experiment.
You seem to be a savvy user of the tools and of social media theory, so I hope you won’t mind if I speak plainly as one of the subjects of your experiment. (yes, I’m clearly stepping outside the bounds of scientist and subject to discuss methodology)
In an effort to show transparency, I’m the person responsible for the Twitter account of JetBlue Airways. When I saw your @BrandCustomer tweet directed at @JetBlue this morning asking for more information on the account ‘handeler,’ I certainly did respond, though likely not in the manner you may have expected: I responded via my personal Twitter account: @MHJohnston. Your request was for more transparency from me, and I’m happy to oblige.
I would posit that any business that interacts with @BrandCustomer as they would any other user, may require further investigation into their social media acuity as with a bit of looking around, it’s quickly discovered that the entire effort is an individual’s experiment.
Businesses interacting with @BrandCustomer as if it were a ‘real’ customer must then be split in to two additional categories: those who go along to appease your desire for the illusion of a customer dialogue – but will risk bias in their responses, or those companies that are only doing surface scanning of Twitter feeds believing it to be an actual customer, and will certainly miss out on the real conversation that actually is occurring. Which of these is a more responsible citizen of social media?
While I may like to pretend I’m observant enough to try to play the role of the former business case, I’m likely closer to the later where I scan, but rarely dig into the profile of those who have requests of us. However, your tweet triggered a secondary glance for one often overlooked reason: While there’s a desire to answer questions, there’s also a need to balance that with a requirement to act responsibly for the rest of our followers.
As willing as I was to be transparent, the answer would have been of little use to the rest of our 8,200+ followers. In these circumstances I’d try to DM – which you pointedly aren’t allowing as @BrandCustomer doesn’t reciprocally follow.
(This gives rise to another question – At what level is a company required to maneuver to help a customer who doesn’t understand or isn’t willing to work within the limitations and ‘norms’ of a tool? I suspect the level is in correlation to the importance – and legitimacy of the request.)
As our Twitter account has grown and responded to the needs of our followers I feel that our particular public corporate feed isn’t the place for the self-referential discourse on corporate roles in Social Media. To put it more bluntly and in my own personal feelings: If Twitter is to be excepted as a legitimate tool within society we need to stop the naval gazing and focus on using the tools in everyday practice. Those of us who remember the early days of blogging will certainly recall a similar amount of introspection when we all gloried in, “the power of the blogger” – but it wasn’t until the posturing stopped and actually writing began that the promise of the medium was recognized by the public at large.
While I’m certainly interested in the role of businesses in social media (as evidenced by this ever-growing comment – it’s a subject I’ve put a lot of thought into) I’m determined to keep at least the tent-pole Twitter identity of @JetBlue clear of the meta-discourse often asked of it, and strive to be the service our customers wish it to be.
All this being said, I also understand that you – @ariherzog are also at least a potential customer and should have your opinions factor in to how our role is shaped on Twitter. So I’ll certainly ask if you or any of your readers think I’m on the right track. Conversations and experiments such as yours are certainly important in understanding where the center-line is, and I’m always willing to course-correct should it be required.
And I’m always willing to get into the theory of it all on my personal Twitter account.