When Yeni and I were dating, her apartment used Comcast for Internet. Like armies of other customers, I experienced numerous problems and after hours on the phone expressed my outrage on Twitter.

I didn’t expect assistance. I simply wasn’t happy and wanted to express my anger, to… well, to the entire world. Surprisingly, my small tweet was noticed by Comcast, who replied to me, contacted the appropriate people, and actually resolved my problem.

Shocked? So was I.

I believe that Frank Eliason (@FrankEliason) revolutionized customer service when he pioneered the ComcastCares social media team. Don’t agree? Frank left Comcast in 2010… how’s their reputation right now?

I tell you all of that to tell you this…

Ben Tobias (@GPDBenTobias) is the Frank Eliason for Police.

If you know me… you will know how significant the following statement truly is… The Gainesville Police Department does an AMAZING job of using social media (especially Twitter) to engage the community.

I have a history with the Gainesville Police Department and have been vocally critical on the web, social media, and in print. I won’t get into all of that here… but let’s just say there was a website or two involved.

Officer Tobias (who I’ll call Ben from here on) is the current GPD spokesperson and as such, runs the department’s twitter account (@GainesvillePD). In the last two years he’s gotten some great press for handling a complaining jaywalker, answering a request for mary jane, and handling a distracted driver not wanting to share the road.

Mind you, these examples are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg regarding how well Ben handles the police twitter account. He uses humor, sticks to a point, and keeps it very professional. The jaywalking professor? He ends up thanking Ben for the conversation.

That jaywalking conversation got picked up on blogs, re-tweeted, discussed by the media, and low and behold… a little jaywalking detail gets incredible exposure. The main point of a detail like this is to get out the message… making this incredibly successful.

Ben provides a great example of how to properly engage with your audience on Twitter. For an example of How Not to Twitter, one must simply look at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (@AlachuaSheriff).

Quick background: Recently, a motorist decided to shoot at a Florida State Trooper on I-75 in Alachua County. The resulting closing of the highway and capture of the shooter resulted in national news exposure. As such, the spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office (ASO) has been engaging in social media with updates.

ASO then tweets to “see the updated information” with no link to see an actual update. People, such as UF’s Chief Meteorologist Jeff Huffman (@HuffmanHeadsUp), ask ASO where exactly the update might be located.

No response from ASO.

I retweet the update and ask Ben, “@GainesvillePD can you please teach ASO how to Twitter?“… which gets this response:

How Not to Twitter by ASO
Now, attitude aside… there’s an amazing irony when you are called out for not sending a link, claim you know what you’re doing (and the other person doesn’t), and then demonstrate yet again that you don’t know how to put a link into a tweet.

Here’s the main issue… no humor, no professionalism, no je ne sais quoi,…

How does this response help your organization? It doesn’t.

You don't know how to Facebook
You don’t know how to Facebook — @JamesFreePBX

What went from a nothing tweet was re-tweeted and seen by thousands (my tweets each had over 1500 views as of this post). The tweet was posted to sharing sites (like reddit) and the conversation wasn’t about a shooter, wasn’t about the update… it was about the poor response and attitude of the spokesperson.

ASO no longer controlled the message. They were now the butt of the joke.

Incidentally, the response from Ben was funny and professional. Proving again, that proper use of social media is powerful.

ASO shows that improper use is just as powerful… and a great demonstration of how not to use Twitter.

PS. ASO, Facebook is so yesterday. As if.

Published by Fred Posner

Fred Posner provides VoIP consulting services through The Palner Group and LOD.com. In 2010, Fred and his wife, Yeni Monroy, opened Bearkery, in Gainesville, Florida. Contact Fred at qxork.com. Even better, make Yeni happy and buy a cookie!

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5 Comments

  1. Playstation could do well to learn this lesson as well… ComcastCares was amazing. Their twitter support was the only bright spot in that entire organization.

  2. Professional? The failure to mention the major cover up the Gainesville police department when they tweeted the social security number of the local Congressman’s son. Lucky for them, they didn’t get sued. Ben should have lost his job.

    1. I think you’re reaching a little bit there… GPD released a report about a person arrested, as required by the Sunshine law. Media from all over the country filing records requests for it. Redaction mistakes happen. Again, you’re talking with someone who’s extremely willing to criticize GPD (and I have the track record to prove it)… but this one, to me, is a non-issue.

  3. Fred,
    Great post. You’re totally right about Frank Eliason, so I know you’ll appreciate this.

    Back in March 2008, I wrote a blogpost called Customer Service Showdown: Comcast vs. the DMV. It compared my girlfriend’s experience with Comcast to mine at the DMV on the same day.

    Hands down, the loser was Comcast.

    Well, my blog posts at 6AM. At 6:05, I had an email from Frank Eliason asking if it was too early for him to call me. I said go ahead, and he asked if he could personally make it right with the gf, etc.

    We ended up having a great hour-long chat, and it’s pretty clear to me now that maybe the dumbest thing Comcast ever did was let Frank Eliason go.

    As to cops: well, good for Ben. The cops need Ben as much as Comcast needed Frank, because that’s another world that’s full of idiot ASO’s. Good for you for calling them out. The twitterverse is the new realm of customer service, and a bunch of humorless guys with guns is the last thing we need interfacing with customers, aka taxpayers and citizens. I hope they take lessons from Ben, and from you.

    Good stuff.

    Oh and that original blogpost? You’ll enjoy it:
    http://trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters/customer-service-showdown-the-cable-company-vs-the-dmv

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