Also over the weekend there was a large earthquake aftershock in Christchurch. Some brands were quickly tweeting their concern and support for the Christchurch community, despite that it occurred 'afterhours' (on Saturday evening). The main telcos were also quick to provide infrastructure updates which are vital services particularly in a crisis situation as we saw with the February earthquake.
This raises the question, should brands be active on Twitter and in social media outside of normal business hours? Does the community expect to receive responses in the evenings, weekends and public holidays?
For some organisations, its an important part of their customer engagement. Its also increasingly becoming a point of competitive advantage.
Take for example the conversation below between Vaughn Davis and Telecom NZ (start at the bottom). Vaughn was overseas and having trouble with his email on his heritage edition iPad connected via Vodafone. Not a particularly unusual conversation for a telco and a customer - except that it was taking place at 10:15pm on a Tuesday night.
Vodafone did not respond to Vaughn's request for help until the following day, and in the meantime the Telecom team jumped in to see what they could do to help (note there was a lot of techo g33k tweets back and forth that went on to diagnose the issue which are not shown here). Had that been a customer looking to switch telcos, this could potentially have been a strong case for customer acquisition. It was also observed by the Twitter community following both @vaughndavis and @TelecomNZ, all of whom are avid consumers of telco services and data. Hmmmmm.
Some brands will state quite clearly on their social media profiles that their accounts are only monitored during normal business hours. Which is fine - but many people don't ever go to the Twitter page of the account due to the proliferation of apps used for Twitter, so its questionable how many people will actually see this attempted disclaimer. Customers (or potential customers!) may have their tweet go unanswered til the next business day by which time they may well have forgotten what it was about. Or have ranted about it on their blog.
I've seen other brands 'sign out' each evening with a farewell tweet to signal they are going off duty. This creates a pattern of activity but if you miss the tweet then you won't know whether they are on duty or off duty until your tweet is meet with deafening silence.
But do we even need or want it - other than in times of crisis? I've observed brands posting content and/or responding to tweets/Facebook posts during evenings or over the weekends, and generally speaking the community seems to be non plussed whether it happens within an hour of posting or the next day (unless you are @vaughndavis). If it is urgent, then can't you call an 0800 number and speak to an actual human at the call centre? Maybe thats part of the attraction of social media - you'll be able to ask your question and chat with a human who is in all likelihood a decent Kiwi, all in real time. No cut offs, no hold music, no language barriers, and maybe even your mates can chip in and help you too. Unfortunately many organisations (particularly in NZ) are not yet fully resourced to be able to monitor and respond to social media requests after normal business hours, although this will change as the size of the local community grows as we have seen overseas, and social business is accepted.
We are coming up to one of the longest holiday weekends of the year (whoop!). Over the Christmas/New Year period the drop in activity from brands was quite noticeable, so it will be interesting to see if the same happens over Easter. I also observed comments from the community that any 'marketing' or 'sales' content (no matter how cleverly disguised) was not appropriate during the holidays - its a holiday for Gods sake!
What about you - do you expect brands to be available on Twitter and Facebook after hours or during public holidays to engage with you?