Scratch That One Little Customer Itch

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Twitter did some thing this week. It was very small. It can have a huge impact.

Yes, Twitter is in all kinds of trouble. They have sliding revenues and meager growth. They are amping up on their traditional advertising to drive customer acquisition, and everyone knows that the biggest bump that they’re getting these days come from a United States President that loves to drop 140 characters bombs on a variety of topics. In fact, Twitter has much larger problems to deal with. Many of them date back to the early days of the platform. One of the biggest one is how they have dealt with trolls, harassment and anonymity. As anyone who is familiar with the platform knows, it’s fairly easy for anonymous trolls to spew their bile all over anyone’s @ replies.

Twitter takes a stand… kind of.

Last Thursday, Twitter deployed a handful of features that give us all much more control over the notifications that we receive. In short, you can disable notifications from people you’re not sure of. All you have to do, is go to your Notification pane, tap settings and then hit “advanced filters.” In there, you can force Twitter to mute the following:

  • Accounts you don’t follow.
  • People don’t have a profile picture (that egg thing).
  • People who have not confirmed their email address.
  • People who have not confirmed their phone number.

What’s great about this… what’s bad about this?

In looking at the options, it’s clearly the last one that is most powerful. All of the other stuff is just fluff. That last one – the phone… that’s the powerful one. In fact, why does Twitter allow anybody to even create an account, if you don’t attach it to a phone number? Anyone can fake an email address, but confirming a phone number really makes it a lot tougher for the trolls to do their trolling. So, this is great (and, I highly recommend that everyone takes five seconds right now to make the adjustments to their profile), but why doesn’t Twitter do this at sign-up? It’s not too late for them to even retroactively suspend accounts for those who have not confirmed their phone numbers. Of course, this will diminish their overall numbers. In fact, it is being reported that up to 48 million Twitter accounts are bots and that between 9%-15% of tweets come from fake accounts (more here: Cnet - Up to 48 million Twitter accounts are bots, study says). Still, these numbers don’t do anybody any good (including Twitter). Couple bot accounts with trolls and harassment, and it would be very interesting to see what the real Twitter numbers look like. Regardless, all of this would make the platform more (not less) valuable. To users, to advertisers and to Twitter (in the long run). On the plus side, Twitter is a large, expansive and growing platform. With all of the challenges also comes all of the amazing content, the speed with which it is delivered, how easy it is to tweet and follow interesting people and brands and more.

Focus less on harassment and more on what happened to uncover some business and marketing gold.

Let’s put aside the business ethics of Twitter making this move to slow down the trolls and harassment, and focus on the consumer. For anybody who uses Twitter, this has been an itch that we could not scratch for a very long time. While it’s only one little check-box with the words “mute notifications from people who haven’t confirmed their phone” it has – without question – scratched that bad itch. One, simple little tweak to the functionality.

What customer itches are you not scratching for your customers?

Often, a brand has to dig down deep to find it. Often, customers don’t even know how bad of an itch it is, until it’s scratched. Regardless, all brands have these itches. Some have more than others, but all brands have them. Imagine if the iPhone suddenly had a battery that didn’t need monitoring/charging for a few days? Imagine if that airline app tripled their speed (my airline of choice just released their latest app, and I often have to switch over to the mobile version of their website because the app is so slow and unresponsive)? There are countless of these little, tiny opportunities that brands – too often – simply ignore, because they feel like there are bigger fish to fry, or that they can couple these issues together and wait for a larger update to make in the future. Don’t do this. Don’t wait. Get on it.

Customers often don’t know just how frustrated they are.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that create big changes. Often, customers just want to be able to get get in, get out and have that experience be a clean and obvious as possible. They often can’t even pinpoint these itches, but they’re there. Brands like to think big, make swooping changes and update many things at once. Those two ideologies are not diametrically opposed, but there’s no reason for brands not to rethink how they approach the connections that they’re trying to make with customers.

Brands should not kid themselves. Those little itches that get scratched can lead to much bigger and better things. Right?