A lot of companies — like Walmart and Target — use social media channels as customer relations tools. We noted recently that they have difficulty keeping up with all the comments from their consumers (Walmart had 5,500 unanswered questions on its Facebook pages prior to Christmas.)
Costco, for instance, didn't publicly respond to a customer who complained recently on Twitter that there was a chunk of wood in a muffin she bought there.
The task can be overwhelming. Conversocial, a social media CRM agency, commissioned a study of Tweets made about a selection of retailers over a 24 hour period on Jan. 8. The study looked at 11,732 tweets about Costco, Kroger, Safeway, and Walgreens.
Of those, only 3 percent of tweets carried the "@" symbol that allows Twitter users to know that someone has mentioned them. About 97 percent of tweeters simply wrote the store name using regular text — which ordinary users can only find if they constantly search Twitter for that name.
While companies that use Twitter for CRM have sophisticated dahsboards allowing them to know when someone tweets about them even without the "@" symbol, many retailers do not.
Conversocial CEO Joshua March fears that those retailers will only find that something is going wrong when it's too late to stop it from exploding into a social media nightmare. One woman, for instance, tweeted that she had found a piece of wood inside a muffin she bought at Costco — but didn't use the @costcotweets handle. (Gross food misadventures — like the Burger King "feet in lettuce" photo — tend to go very viral, very quickly.)
That tweet, from @Rudycarpente8dl, did not get a reply from Costco:
Omgsh I found a small piece of wood in one of them costco muffins kmt— Rudy Carpente (@rudycarpente8dl) October 27, 2012
Costco lucked out on this occasion: No one else noticed the tweet either.
Here's a look at some of the other tweets in that 97 percent:
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