The O2 Twinterview

James PatersonA couple of weeks ago I asked my readers to come up with twitter-related questions for James Paterson, Digital Communications Manager at O2. James hasn’t had time to answer them all but below you’ll find some great insights in to how a corporate giant engages with people on a personal level via social media.

So are O2 getting their social media strategy right?

Q1 Dan Donald @hereinthehive: I can only assume that you guys get swamped through channels like Twitter. How do you handle these in-house? Filtering software such as Tweetdeck? How many members of staff are on ‘social channel’ duty, Twitter in particular?

James: A member of the in-house communications team monitors Twitter throughout the day – we’ve tried a range of Twitter software and currently use Seesmic Desktop. Our team also manages our other channels, including Facebook, Flickr and YouTube

Q2 Richard Baker @richard_baker: How does your role link to other teams in the business eg customer service etc and how do you encourage leaders to listen and respond to feedback?

James: We are supported by a handful of dedicated customer service advisors who help us to respond to the customer-related questions we get asked.

Sharing feedback we receive from all our social media presences is essential and is one of the main reasons we invest so much time and energy into the online space. We’re lucky in that the majority of people at O2 understand the value in channels like Twitter already. We have a young and vibrant set of people who use social media in their personal lives already. It’s just as well, because we rely on different business areas to help us respond to feedback, and in return, they rely on us to understand what is being said about the things that concern us, like phones, network coverage and pricing.

This extends all the way up to board level – our directors often stop by my desk to ask what is being said on Twitter!

Q3 MJ Ray: You’re on twitter, but are you on any OpenMicroBlogging site? If not, why not? It’s the GSM of microblogs.

James: We’re currently exploring a range of different social media tools to make sure we reach as wide an audience as possible. We are always careful to walk before we can run and have a commitment to sustain any channel we set up and use it with credibility. Thanks for the tip – we’ll explore that one too.

Q4 Peter Jahn @jahnzilla: Has o2 encouraged the use of social media primarily as a means of strengthening relationships with existing customers, or do you see social media as a way of increasing brand awareness and encouraging new custom? (Or both!)

James: Definitely both. It’s great to see how many O2 customers contact us to say they’re glad we’re on a particular social network – it’s equally important to hear feedback from existing customers if there’s something they want us to change or feedback.

One of my favourite tweets was from someone who decided to choose us as their operator because we were on Twitter – it proves that listening and taking part in discussions has real merit. And yes, from a brand perspective we think it can only be a good thing. Our mantra is to be open and trusted as a brand, and Twitter helps us do this.

Q5 Stephanie @sdoca08:How do you manage to Twitter about O2 without always having a link back to a web page? Do you have any guidelines for internal staff about using social media?

James: That’s simple – because for us it’s a communications channel and not a marketing channel! Where it is beneficial, we will link to our news sites or other channels to show pictures or video, but our Twitter feed isn’t about linking to the O2 Shop.

We do have guidelines for our staff on social media. We developed this by holding internal focus groups with staff and then developing a policy that helps shape the way people use these tools in a work capacity, whilst still giving them freedom that all-important freedom.

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