Poaching Customers on Twitter

In the right hands, Twitter enables businesses and brands to interact with their customers in ways previously unheard of. But if you’re not careful, it can do you just as much harm as good. Today I witnessed the power of this firsthand.

The Complaint

I recently started using Seamless Web, an online meal delivery service. Aside from some slow service, it has been going well enough. Some things about their web UI bothered me however, so I took a few seconds to broadcast some of those issues on Twitter:

The Competitor

Apparently the online delivery service business is heating up, and competition is pretty fierce. Within a few hours I found this Tweet in my @replies:

The Response

I took a look at the Grub Hub site, and it looks pretty promising:

The Switch?

Next time I place an order online, I will be giving Grub Hub my business. If the experience tops or even equals Seamless Web they will have won a new customer at the expense of their competition. Just goes to show that in the war for attention these days you’ve gotta be quick to the draw.

Update: Twist!

Although not addressing my first tweet, Seamless Web did have something to say about the Grub Hub experience:

Which calls attention to the potential for abuse with this practice. If you are watching the conversation around your competition, and choose to reach out to one of their customers or potential customers you’d better be sure that your message is relevant.

Regardless of which service I end up preferring (I suspect I will be using both), this exchange has been a perfect example of a kind of dialog which was very rare before Twitter. The real-time nature of Twitter gives businesses the opportunity to promote their services through group conversation, as opposed to the one way nature of an advertisement, and we all benefit from that.