Spark Interview: Sparking Customer Engagement with Twitter.

Greg Maxson — Senior Manager at Twitter — explains how Twitter is shaping the way consumers interact with businesses and how Twitter helps create better products, services, and customer experiences.
Rachel Kador
March 10, 2020 - 5 min. read

Little did we know that Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet in 2009 would pave the way to a massive repository of human thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

Today, Twitter has over 150 million users worldwide engaging in conversations daily. Marketers are sitting on a goldmine of valuable customer insights that most businesses are missing out on.

In this interview, Greg Maxson, Senior Manager of Data Sales and Developer Partnership at Twitter, explains how harnessing real-time customer feedback from Twitter can help businesses create better products and services and spark engagement with customers on Twitter.

Spark Interview: Greg Maxson

Q: Twitter is obviously a massive platform, can you share a bit about what kind of data marketers can get from Twitter and how to put it to use?

What sets Twitter apart from other social networks is that it is, by its default nature, public. Everyone can see and engage with everyone else on Twitter (except for DMs and private tweets). For that reason, the conversation is intrinsic to the platform’s zeitgeist. People don’t come to Twitter to say, “look at me.” They come to say, “look at this.” Movements begin on Twitter because people on the platform are active, engaged, and driving conversations that shape the world. And this open, exploratory mindset makes the conversations on Twitter particularly valuable for data marketers.

With over 150 million people actively participating in the conversation daily, Twitter has become a massive repository of human thoughts, experiences, and feelings. By tapping into those unprompted, authentic, emotional, real-time, and historic conversations, marketers and others can better understand the people and topics that are important to them.

Looking at it on a more granular level, Twitter data can surface insights such as influence, time, tone, sentiment, demographics, psychographics, and even visual analytics.

Q: I think a lot of us are used to using Twitter as a customer service channel — that use case is clear and brands can see how impactful it is. One less clear area is using Twitter as a source for inspiration — especially for product development. How are some brands doing that? Can you share any best practices or tips?

While definitely a powerful communication channel (customer service), don’t forget that people come to Twitter to talk about all kinds of things, from the mundane to the profound and everything in between. By tapping into those conversations, businesses can learn a lot about what people want. When it comes to fueling innovation and product development, some of the things we’re seeing are:

  • Listening. By listening to the public conversation, businesses are spotting emerging trends, opinions, and even negative experiences that people are having with competitors in real-time and then quickly putting those insights to work, incorporating them into their product and innovation plans.
  • Predicting. By tapping into the real-time and historic data available from the public conversation on Twitter, some companies have incorporated prediction into their innovation initiatives. Twitter spearheaded a project analyzing billions of Tweets between the beginning of 2016 and the middle of 2019 to uncover 18 emerging trends. From health to climate to spirituality, by listening to and analyzing the public conversation, your chances of staying ahead of the competition increase dramatically.
  • Connecting. We humans are emotional beings and, not surprisingly, those emotions extend to our consumer choices. Capturing reactions now can go a long way toward uncovering the emotion fueling a customer experience. Emotional insight can be a powerful tool to shape product and service experiences and ultimately build brand loyalty.
  • Measuring. Tracking customer satisfaction isn’t a new idea. CSAT is already firmly entrenched within many companies, and in many cases, its findings are used to inform innovation initiatives. What is somewhat new is incorporating data from the public conversation on Twitter into CSAT initiatives. By following customers through the buying journey through Tweets, every step is an opportunity to gain insight into their experience, including pinpointing customer entry points, identifying influence factors, and spotting areas of friction.
  • Monitoring. If something is going sideways with your product or service, spotting the problem quickly is critical. Customers today are quick to signal both delight and disappointment — and more often than not they turn to Twitter. By paying attention and reacting quickly, businesses increase their chances of preventing an issue from becoming a crisis that sends their customers running to the competition.

Q: You refer to Twitter as the world’s largest focus group. Can you explain how that works and share some examples of companies who’ve used Twitter that way?

Twitter is emerging as the world’s largest publicly available, searchable archive of consumer thoughts, experiences, and opinions. By its very nature, Twitter reflects the world as it unfolds. It’s the best place to witness and engage—in real-time—in discussions happening anywhere and everywhere, from news to music to sports to entertainment, and just everyday life. By tapping into the unprompted, authentic, emotional, real-time, and historic conversations happening on Twitter, we can better understand the world around us and the people in it.

Take smartphone manufacturer OnePlus. When the OnePlus 6 first launched, the team noticed a huge spike in negative Twitter mentions about the notch feature. A deeper dive into the data revealed that people were unhappy about the phone notch feature because it partially covered the screen display. Not only was the feedback taken seriously and passed on to the design team, but the first software update for the OnePlus 6 included an optional feature to “hide the notch.” With the issue quickly addressed, there was a significant decline in negative mentions.

Another great example is the case of Lipton Matcha Green Tea. Unilever’s Lipton brand was looking for the next big thing in iced tea. By analyzing the public conversation around tea, they identified that matcha was evolving from an exotic ingredient to one with perceived mainstream health and wellness benefits. With that predictive insight, Unilever successfully brought a matcha iced tea product to market.

Q: What’s the top priority for Twitter moving forward? What can we as marketers look forward to in terms of data, segmentation, insights, etc?

Some key themes driving Twitter’s evolution are privacy and healthy conversation. Put simply, we want people to trust in and feel safe on Twitter. People’s right to privacy and data protection is something we have fought to protect since Twitter was created in 2006. We remain committed to building privacy into our products and making it easy to understand what data is shared all while keeping ourselves accountable to the people who choose Twitter as a place to share and engage in conversation. Equally important are our ongoing efforts to build a Twitter that is free of abuse, spam, and other things that distract from the public conversation. From a data perspective, this focus will only increase the quality and integrity of the data that our customers rely on to support their business decision-making.