Circos Brand Karma

Official Blog of Circos

Revisiting Twitter, Part 2: How to be in the know without being “in”

with 3 comments

Recently I was trying to buy a ticket online on Tiger Airways, a budget airline that operates out of Singapore and serves Asia.  Though I knew about Tiger, I’ve never flown it.  So I did 2 searches, one on Google, and one on Twitter, both using the keywords “tiger airways.”  Here’s what I found: Google’s first search result page returned 10 results, 6 led to a booking engine, 4 to information (including wikipedia).  Twitter returned 20 results, 0 led to a booking engine, 4 tweets were positive, 3 were neutral, 2 were questions, and a whopping 11 were negative (for math lovers that’s a -35% net favorability if you consider questions to be neutral).  Below are screenshots of the top 5 results from each service (click the image to zoom in).

google v. twitter results for tiger airways

google v. twitter results for tiger airways, July 2009

As you can see, while Google does a sufficient job at presenting facts, Twitter is much more human with personal pet peeves for all to see.  Also, I had no idea how old the sites Google pointed me to were, but I had a pretty good idea that the tweets about Tiger were all very recent, and therefore, more relevant to me.  Finally, Google abstracts are often an incomplete description of the website, whereas Twitter posts are mostly complete thoughts.  This slight difference is the pivotal one as it relates to brands.  In this example, whereas Google invites travelers to find out more, Twitter users unabashedly present their point of view so travelers don’t have to find out more.

For a traveler deciding, let’s say, between Tiger and Air Asia (another low cost carrier), you don’t have to read a lot of tweets to quickly form an opinion for how they’re regarded by their customers.  As the tweets predicted, I encountered a problem buying my ticket on Tiger’s website, and was instructed to call customer service.  While on hold, I was reminded at least 5 times that Tiger won the Best Low-Cost Airline of the Year in 2008 from CAPA within the on-hold loop music, which ironically made me question the validity of the award.

Why?  Not because I don’t respect CAPA, but because the tweeters’ complaints were entire consistent with each other and with my booking and customer service experience.  Some were further backed by links to news reports that reported on similar incidences.  On the other hand, I had absolutely no idea who at CAPA selected the airline and under what criteria.  The tweets I read made the professional CAPA opinion and award seemingly obsolete and dated, and the award did not lessen my growing doubts about Tiger Airways.

Is my brand experience typical?  I think more and more so.  A brand’s story becomes fragmented when there’s dissonance between what it tries to portray vs. the actual customer feedback.  That “promise gap” can shred a brand and render its messaging useless if the feedback is antithetical to the brand portrayal, and the brand either ignores the feedback or insists that the opposing feedback came from outliers.  In the past, customer feedback have been exclusively behind the brand’s firewall or embedded in private conversations and emails.  Message forums led to review sites led to blogging, each made customer feedback more public.  Twitter is all of those combined, with rocket boosters, and equipped with efficient search internally and to be externally discovered (via Google).

While consumers may initially approach Twitter with high skepticism, if they consistently read tweets that mirror their own experiences, they’ll start to accept and believe in the wisdom of the tweeters.  This is why the “follow” function is so powerful.  On Twitter, you can follow anyone you trust, and stop following anyone who gives bs, which is unlike Facebook where the person you want to friend (in order to see what they have to say) has to accept your friend request.

Given the rapid growth of Twitter, learning from travelers who are otherwise inaccessible to you but who happen to know what you need will become even more pervasive in the coming days.  The operative word here being days.  Where else in the world can a traveler go to find the right micro-segment of travelers who have the exact relevant, current, and credible knowledge they need?  Not travel agencies, not brands, not travel books, not travel magazines, not CAPA, and I posit, not even their friends and family.  This, coupled with the speed and reach of Twitter discussed in part 1, are the key ingredients to a paradigm shift for brands in the travel industry.

If you want more context about why Twitter works, you can read Granovetter’s seminal work on the Strength of Weak Ties.  For a non-academic version, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point covers the main idea as well.  From Wikipedia, the central premise is,

In marketing or politics, the weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.

That, is exactly what Twitter does with amazing efficiency.


3 Responses

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  1. However, wouldn’t people who are dissatsified with the airline be much more likely to tweet about it? Is there a way to discount that factor?

    David Mondrus

    August 19, 2009 at 7:10 am

  2. Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I’m more of a visual learner,I found that to be more helpful well let me know how it turns out. Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll. This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information.. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post.

    Donnie Midden

    February 4, 2010 at 4:15 am

  3. Ich habe darber erst mal was gelesen, echt gutes Thema. Ich komme wieder.

    Vincenzo Serafin

    February 5, 2010 at 1:48 am

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