Friday, May 22, 2009

Will real time search turn marketing into customer service?

With the popularity of Twitter's real time search, and some Very Large companies like @Comcastcares, @Jetblue, @Wholefoods and @Ford being very vocal about the importance of maintaining a two-way dialogue with their consumers, it follows that the next stage of marketing may feature company reps reaching out via Twitter Search to real consumers and offering product deals, offers, or advice. 

This has already happened in some instances, but it hasn't happened on a grand scale...yet. Marketing as customer service seems the obvious next step in online marketing to me. But I haven't really heard many tech pundits kicking it around in convo or posts much. There was this post by my fave search expert, John Battelle, that sticks out in my mind. It was posted last year. 

The main idea of the post is that Google may feel to us like it's immediate, but it's really an archival system. Battelle writes, "Google represents a remarkable achievement: the ability to query the static web." What Google hasn't done yet is show us what query searches in real time. 

But guess who has done that? Twitter. Ahhhh...Twitter. The darling of the community sites just can't do anything wrong it seems. But it may have some competition lurking in Sunnyvale.

In a more recent post by Battelle, the omnipresence of real time search appears inevitable when Battelle quotes Google co-founder Larry Page as admitting that "People really want to do stuff in real time and they [Twitter] have done a great job about it...we will do a good job of things now that we have these examples."

So have we reached the moment when your search coughs up what people are saying about your query that very second? And if so, what does that mean to marketing? 

This is what's really interesting to me. And you better believe corporations and CMOs everywhere are similarly salivating over the idea of direct, one-to-one sales and marketing via real time queries. I mean, it's the ultimate opt-in, right? The consumer is actually requesting information and is probably near the end of the buying cycle. Plus, the corporation rep can snag that lead and convert it into a sale, immediately.

I can even visualize what the day-to-day job would require: some kind of marketing/customer service/account person hybrid, sitting in front of a multi-panel listening platform, where they monitor certain key word mentions online and entice influencers with micro blog outreach moments. Do you see it too? What do you see?

1 comment:

Rufus Xevious said...

It'd difficult to judge whether or not Twitter will be the platform of choice for late-stage buying cycle communications between customers and companies. What I find most interesting about your post, though, is the idea that real-time search can become a form of both marketing and customer service. I find this amusing, because so many companies have spent the last 30 years running away from an emphasis on customer service. What is the likelihood that companies will begin begin re-investing time, money, and energy in a new form of customer service via real-time search/Twitter? Raising consumer expectations for customer service will continue to make companies more vulnerable and I suspect that many companies will be slow to increase their customer service obligations. It's not only the giving up of control (or the illusion of control) that this entails, but the establishment of infrastructure, training practices, and processes to ensure a serious upside to such a change in sales and marketing philosophy.