Here's a quick cautionary tale for those of you with business Twitter accounts.

Don't let your business Twitter account become a desert for your customers. (Photo by M.C. Lester)

Yesterday, I tweeted about the challenges I was having getting anyone with the big publisher's publicity department to return an email or phone call. Several times over the last month, I've reached out as directed from the publisher's web site, only to receive no response whatsoever. Not even an autoreply. I might have seen a sage brush blow across the ether, but I can't be sure. So I tweeted lamenting this fact and asking if anyone could help me crack the code. Of course, I put the corporate Twitter handle in there, hoping they'd just jump right on it.

To their credit (remember, the bar is so low it's hardly a bar), I did hear from them. But not with the response I was hoping full. They're now following me!

That's right. They can follow me, but they can't do anything else. They can't say they're sorry the PR team hasn't been responsive? They can't say they're looking into the problem? They can't tell me they've asked someone to get in touch right away? Apparently not. But they sure as shootin' can follow me. Great.

If you've got a business Twitter account, be smart about it. If someone posts a complaint, address it as you would any other customer complaint. And if you're not going to bother doing anything to solve the customer's problem, then for heaven's sake don't follow the complainer. Sure, we all like seeing the follower tally tick up, but that's not enough to overcome the double ill will (from the initial problem and then the way you mishandled hearing about it) you've generated.

Remember, Twitter is a customer service/relationship tool as much as it is anything else. Use it that way. Seattle's Bill the Butcher is a great case in point. Read about it here.

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