Now it's easier for customers to complain on Twitter

Steven Loeb · February 18, 2016 · Short URL:

Twitter is improving customer service with Tweets to Direct Messages and Customer Feedback

Ever since he took over as CEO last year, Jack Dorsey has been trying hard to make the service better for its users. Everything he does, every move he makes, comes back to fixing the company's long-standing problem with getting new people on the platform, and keeping the old ones from leaving.

None of that has worked so far, if its most recent earnings are any indication, where, depending on how you look at it, Twitter's users either stayed flat, or actually declined, from the previous quarter. Still, the company is going to keep trying, hoping that this will all eventually pay off.

Its latest move is to improve customer service on the platform. Not for users complaining about Twitter itself, though I image there are plenty of people who would gladly do so, but rather those who want to reach out to a brand through Twitter.

According to Twitter, its advertisers say that 80 percent of their social customer service requests happen on the platform, which makes sense. It has to be a better way to reach someone than emailing some random address and hoping it makes its way to someone. (Personally, I like to call when I have a complaint, because it's so much more refreshing to yell at a human being. But that's just me.)

So, to make it even easier to complain, Twitter is doing two things: First, since most conversations with a business begin in a Tweet, before transferring over to a Direct Message, businesses can put a link in their Tweets which allows the customer to send a DM, making that transition much smoother.

Second, users are now allowed to leave feedback with the business after they're done dealing with the customer service representative. That allows the user to easily tell the company is they are satisfied, and it will allow businesses to see how they can improve their customer service. So that's a win-win. 

The data actually shows that it's in the best interest of the brands themselves to connect with customers in this way.

"These businesses generate impressive results — not only are their customers more satisfied, but they also see a cost per resolution that is half the cost of a call center interaction. And this leads to increased brand loyalty and sales: recent research shows that when a customer Tweets a question or complaint to an airline and receives a response, they’re willing to pay on average $9 more for their next purchase from that airline," Ian Cairns, Product Manager at Twitter, wrote.

Some companies are already working to set up these features, including Conversocial, Hootsuite, Lithium, Salesforce, Spredfast, Sprinklr, and Sprout Social, all of which are Twitter Official Partners, as well as Sparkcentral.

Will the ability to have better connection to businesses bring new people onto the platform? No, I'd say probably not. it does, however, make the service just that much better for existing users. It won't be a make or break type feature, but every little thing helps when a company is, frankly, pretty desperate to grow its user base.

Some of Twitter's other efforts to retain/add new users have included some drastic measures. One of its biggest moves was an update to its timeline, though that did not go as far as some had feared. 

Users have been given an opt-in way to change their timeline to display those that they are "most likely to care about," rather than just the most recent.

The company has also toyed with the idea of getting rid of the 140-character limit, perhaps all the way up to 10,000 characters, which is more than 70 times what it is currently.

Those are the bigger moves, but there are also smaller ones it has made that the company believes will make Twitter function better.

That has included getting rid of "weird rules," like the .@name syntax and @reply, which new users would not know or understand. It also introduced Moments, a feature that is designed to curate content by aggregating Tweets and photos from live events and breaking-news situations. 

So far, none of this has helped Twitter much in the user growth department. 

In the fourth quarter, Twitter saw its average monthly active users grow a mere 9 percent year-to-year to 320 million, but were completely flat from Q3. Analysts had expected Twitter to report 325 million monthly users, or 1.5 percent growth. 

Excluding SMS Fast Followers, MAUs were only 305 million for Q4, up only 6 percent year-over-year, but they were actually down on a sequential basis from 307 million in the third quarter. SMS Fast Followers, which are users who people who sign up and access Twitter only through text message, and they have only been counted since the second quarter of last year. 

The little things add up, though, and the better Twitter can make the service, and the more comfortable it can make both new and existing users, the better chance it has of being able to turn itself around. 

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.