Last Updated Aug 6, 2009 2:18 PM EDT
Would you let a 21-year-old intern work the phones without training? Then why would you let one manage your company's Twitter account, where they have direct contact with loads of extremely vocal customers?
Millennials are often given charge of a corporate Twitter updates because they tend to be Web savvy -- research by the US-based Center for Work-Life Policy claims 64 per cent of millennials regularly participate on social networking sites.
But their lack of experience can be a drawback, especially when they're dealing directly with customers.
They may struggle to pick up on the culture, image, direction, and goals of a company in the short time they are there. And when they leave, they take their Twitter skills and style with them, leaving the company to find fill that void every few months.
Sometimes it can work beautifully. The most notable success story is Pizza Hut, whose intern won the role over hundreds of competitors and is responsible for growing the company's Twitter account by 10,000 followers in just a few months.
And the horror story? UK-based furniture chain Habitat's twintern added "hashtags" to company posts that tied its promotions to Iran's election, so people searching for updates on Iran saw the Habitat tweets. This created a huge online backlash, and the company had to come out and issue a formal apology.
Here are four tips to ensure your Twitterer is adding value:
- Find the best people for the job. Interns are not your only option. Your company probably has people who are using Twitter. Find them, and recruit them for the task of becoming your official Twitterers. Already being familiar with the service will give these people a leg up.
- Train them. Give them the same basic customer training that you give to the rest of your customer service team -- how to interact with customers, what the company wants to communicate, the language that works best, and the image it wants to convey.
- Let them become experts on Twitter. Give them the time and resources to learn the ropes. Twitter is a tiny bit more technical than working the phones (though you would train your phone reps on your phone system, wouldn't you?). Especially important is Twitter etiquette -- a backlash on Twitter spread across the Web can be damaging to your reputation.
- Keep them in the loop. Give your Twitterers the same information you'd supply other customer service reps -- promotions you're currently running, as well as any ongoing product or service issues. A customer who Tweets a complaint is just as important as one who calls one in, and if your Twitter-er is in the dark about the nature of the complaint he or she could just make a situation worse. Remember -- an angry phone call can't go viral.
- Incentivise the role. What kind of reward can you offer your Twitterer for interacting individually with a set number of customers, or generating a certain number of re-tweets.