Last week I noticed that Telstra’s BigPond is on Twitter.  I was thrilled - that is, until I went to their Twitter page.  I kid you not; much like Alister Cameron suggests on his blog, it looks like bots are running Twitter for Telstra.

First, let’s take a look at what they’re talking about on Twitter, and then what they should be talking about.

Bigpond Team on Twitter

Since joining Twitter on September 24, 2008, BigPondTeam has updated 14 times [at last count]; the number of updates however, is not as important as the content of the updates.

But for one, all of them give you a link to their customer help page, which offers you the option of reading the FAQs, or submitting a query through a form.

Six tweets say exactly the same thing:

BigPond® would like 2 chat about the concerns U have. Click & a BigPond consultant will email U back.

The rest are much the same.

When a corporation decides to get involved with the social Web, the first thing it must do is create a strategy.  At a minimum, BigPond should consider the following as a base for their Twitter strategy.

Distribute useful and timely information to your customers

  • If you’re having a sale; tweet it.
  • If you’re experiencing issues in a particular region, tweet it.
  • If you have recently had a success, tweet it.
  • If you have suggestions for Bigpond customers, tweet it.
  • If you have breaking news (from your blog) tweet it. Particularly in the area of Internet, mobile, security, etc.

Once you have been doing this for a couple of weeks - and only then - start building a following.

Building a following

You know who your customers are; now find out a little about them.

Check them out online, and if they have a Twitter presence - follow them.   This does not mean rush out and follow 1000 people - you will look more like a bot - rather, spend time daily getting to know say ten people.  Follow them, they’ll receive a message of your follow, and check you out.  If they see nothing useful on your page (and at this point that’s exactly what they’ll see), they won’t have a reason to follow you back.

Again, before you start following anyone, you must create a followable presence.

Ask questions and offer answers

When someone asks a specific question, answer it.  Don’t send those that are wanting to talk to you away - it makes you look spammy; all you’re doing is diverting traffic to your site.

It begs the question why are you on Twitter in the first place if not to engage in conversation with your customers?   Doing what you’re doing now will only hurt your brand; by the same token, if you don’t have the resources to offer more - don’t do it.  Having a Twitter presence does not make you an innovator in and of itself.

Telstra Twitter Tips

  • Don’t include the @ character in every Tweet - check out the Zappos CEO’s Twitter page
  • Don’t include the ‘registered’ icon beside your name - we already know
  • People DO want to know who they are talking with - consider a lesson from JetBlue: “Currently on Duty: Morgan,” it’s a quick and easy change for your Twitterers.
  • If you’re going to have a support page on Twitter - support!

And a final tip to your social media representative Peter Habib

From the comments section on blogology:

1. Include an avatar, otherwise you seem like a ‘sometimes’ contributor to the social Web

2. You don’t need to include (Telstra) after your name; people can see where you’re from when they hover over a name - again, doing this makes you appear as a ‘sometimes’ contributor

3. Understand that telling people you are ‘quite active’ and being ‘quite active’ are two different things

4. Second Life presence - hate to burst your bubble; Second Life is old ‘new media’

5. YouTube - yes, you upload video - but active? Participatory? No. I don’t see comments from Telstra staff anywhere, yet your clients comment…

6. Facebook - I don’t know what you’re doing on FB, but if it’s in the same vein as what you’re doing in the rest of the social space I suspect it needs an overhaul.

7. Twitter - well I guess you really need to read the stuff above


I just noticed a plug from ZDNet for Telstra: BigPond launches Twitter Support

From the article:

The service, being run by BigPond’s email support team, will monitor Twitter posts that mention any potential support issues among BigPond customers. Once it detects an issue, the team will use Twitter to contact the customer and offer assistance.

Interesting to note that Renai LeMay, who is an active user of Twitter, obviously didn’t check his facts.  Rather than just giving us the spin, he should have taken the time and looked at what @bigpondteam is actually doing.

Although, I must admit, given this tweet, perhaps he has…

Update 2

@annapoet - Carolyn Hall from Western Australia was contacted by BigPond last week with an offer of help:

Not happy being sent to a link, Carolyn replies with this:

So what does BigPond do?

Sends her to the same form again.

I decided to ask Carolyn what she, as a BigPond customer thought about this.  Also, I was interested in knowing what she would have done if they had taken the time to ask how they can help.  This is her response.

Huge Thanks to Carolyn!

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  1. 28 September 2008 3:53

    Brilliant post! Great analysis of the problem and excellent recommendations. I hope Bigpond have the sense to read it.

  2. 28 September 2008 5:17

    Great post Lid … although I think you’re being very diplomatic. Telstra needs a slap in the head. I can’t think of a faster way to get tech-savvy customers off-side than to setup bots on Twitter. And I can’t believe people are actually following the twits!?!? Are these the same people that reply to spam email??!? Crikey I can feel a rant coming on …

  3. 28 September 2008 5:31

    LOL. Dr Ron, I’m following them and no - I don’t reply to spam! I’m following them because I’m interested in their “strategy” (or lack of) and watching how this plays out…(they’re following me - I’m one of the tweet-ees)

  4. 28 September 2008 6:07

    Hahaha thanks for putting that into perspective Katie! I’m strangely compelled to click the “follow” button myself… but… can’t… seem to… actually bring myself to do it.

    Okay I’m getting obsessed now… I’m going to lie awake all night wondering what I’ll miss if I *don’t* click the follow button. Damn.

    Let me know how it goes. I’ve got a sad suspicion that it will just be a spam channel, the Twitter version of a “your call is valuable” recording.

  5. Lid
    28 September 2008 10:28

    Haha. You guys are funny.

    The sad thing is that this is the result of my third go at writing this thing. I just couldn’t stop bitching about their engagement with social media; ended up figuring they obviously don’t care what their customers think so ragging them off won’t do anything. Decided ultimately that if anyone wants to use Twitter well, they might want to use the BigPond example as a resource on how *not* to do anything on the social Web.

    I think I have to update this to point to your posts; start including the point of view of other BigPond customers

    Thanks Katie & Dr. Ron for your comments, you made my morning :)

  6. 28 September 2008 14:05

    You’ll see I’ve also dicussed @bigPondTeam at my blog -

    I have it on good authority that the actual people working that Twitter account are good folks and want to help. Great, except they have no empowerment to respond like humans.

    The whole perception from Telstra management that they are engaged in social media bugs me as they plenty of presence, but no *engagement*, voice or humanity. Isn’t that what social media is about?

  7. Peter Habib
    28 September 2008 15:02


    We really appreciate the feedback and we’re finding it extremely valuable as we build-up our twitter presence.

    Great to see what we are doing is getting noticed.

    I guess it is far too easy to “have a go” at corporates who move into social media, just because of who they are. And not many corporates in this country have forayed into new media.

    We’re happy to keep pioneering and improving as we move along.

  8. 28 September 2008 15:17

    @Peter Habib, I’m glad you’re watching to see the feedback, but are you *listening*? The approach you’ve taken with nearly all your social media efforts are ham-fisted and frankly, damaging the Telstra brand.

    There are a lot of corporates using social media, and many of them successfully and in the right way. You suggest we’re having a go at you, you’re right. But we’d do exactly the same to any corporate who executed this badly.

    Please, please, please make an effort to get in contact with at least one of the well known people in social media strategy in Australia - me, Laurel Papworth, Lee Hopkins, Trevor Cook. We’d love to help you execute on this the right way. It’s not like any of us are hard to find online - I publish my direct phone number on my site.

  9. 28 September 2008 15:31


    I don’t think it’s “having a go” so much as giving advice - albeit in Twitter and Blog dialect; another reason to get jiggy with it:

    Look at the nature of the responses: most of them are constructive. Not to mention that the majority of those who have offered their point of view “know stuff”. Valuable feedback for Bigpond I’d say!

    And I’ll add my name to Stephen’s list. Happy to help you execute this in a more useful and meaningful way.

    : )

  10. Lid
    28 September 2008 20:42


    I suspect you’re right. I’m sure there are many obstacles Telstra/BigPond needs to overcome - but - this does not excuse them from jumping into a community without getting to know it first. If their marketing team knows little about social media - why aren’t they learning?


    I appreciate you stopping by, and have to say it pleases me greatly that you have removed the ‘Telstra’ after your name. See - it’s really quite easy ;)

    However, I still find your comment disturbing - on two fronts.

    One - your statement that you’re finding it valuable [the feedback], as you’re building up your Twitter presence; this should have been first and foremost - getting to know the community before uttering a single word - in fact, it would have led to greater, more positive feedback, from a wider variety of sources.

    Two. You are pleased to see what you’re doing is getting noticed? Huh. Does this mean you are one of those people who believe that any publicity is good publicity? Not so much my friend, on the social Web.

    Having a go at you is not what I did here - trust me - you would have known ;)

    My response and I believe I speak for many within the Twitter community, would have been the same whether writing about an individual or corporate. In fact, Stephen says much the same thing; it doesn’t matter who you are.

    Picture this:

    What is Twitter?

    1) Access to breaking news; the content of which is [in the main] more accurate than other sources

    2) A place to help one another out, even between non followers (take Carolyn Hall and Katie Harris for instance - although now, yes, we follow one another)

    3) Access to a larger audience through retweeting for reach

    4) Open and honest communication

    5) Open and honest dialogue

    If your presence is only to allow your CEO to stay we have a presence in social media, then well done, you have achieved your goal.

    The sad thing is your comment reads like a sound bite rather than an actual honest response - which in this case would have been “Yep, we f*cked up”

    Katie - I think I love you for life :)

    You’ve managed to say succinctly what I’ve been trying to say within this post - albeit in a very wafflyish way ;)

  11. Steven Neville
    28 September 2008 21:04

    Hmmm…. I’ve pushed for a while for BigPond to get more engaged with customers (yes, I work for them) via twitter, etc including how to and how NOT to use this service. My advice was along the lines of the tips presented here. Upon hearing that we had finally started using twitter I checked it out and went for an immediate face slap. Instead of actively engaging customers in a true, helpful dialogue we’ve gone for the “Legal’s said this is ok” ‘bot responses. I can go on, but my disappointment has already been covered by others above.

    I can only hope that we quickly get away from the strict, ’spun by PR\approved by Legals’ approach and truly embrace social media

  12. Lid
    28 September 2008 21:44


    Thank you.

    I can understand your frustration, but my biggest question remains: Why Twitter?

    With so many options for corporates to get involved with social media - some of which are not conversational [think delicious] - I really cannot understand why BigPond decided Twitter would be a viable option.

    In my mind, social media, while predominantly about connections online, is also changing and shaping internal connections - between the PR/Legal/Tech/Creatives.

    Corporations that do connect well internally, generally have greater success online; consider this hugely successful video campaign:

    If it were not for collaboration between the tech, creatives, legal and marketing team; this campaign would never have reached the heights it did.

    Just something to think about…

    I wish you luck, and have my fingers crossed for you.

    If anyone, Telstra has the resources to do this right.

  13. Steven Neville
    28 September 2008 23:17

    LID - Ultimately it comes down to being able to get everyone’s head around how social media can be utilised. I agree that there’s many options and personally saw twitter as a ‘dipping a toe in the water’ exercise to show how things can be done well and use that as a case for bigger, perhaps even, unconventional things rather than jumping into the deep end. I’m not privy to why we did go with twitter, but as we’ve seen, I think my thoughts of a softly-softly approach were well founded!! Imagine if it had been a jump into the deep end. LOL

    Yep, it’s a big company with the available resources, but like turning a big freighter, it takes a lot of time to change the mindset from old-school telco to embracing the online world. As with your wii example (which I love), it’s the internal connections between these groups that isn’t where it needs to be. Along with ensuring the people in those groups ‘get it’.

  14. 29 September 2008 2:18

    Thanks for the advice and the tips.

    Zappo’s CEO tweets are many times about eating out.

    No so interesting.

  15. Lid
    29 September 2008 22:54


    You know what is really interesting to me? That you would be the smarter choice in taking BigPond’s social Web strategy to the next level; why aren’t you?

    As you point out, big corporates are protected by legal, but if they really want to embrace social media, they must overcome that fear.

    Thank you for coming here and giving us your take. I hope Telstra reward you for this; you’re the only one from the BigPond team that has done something positive about this Twitter mess - you’ve been honest and fun - and that’s what it’s about.

    @ Engago Team

    Seems like you need some advice on the social Web too; please leave your name next time you comment - not your brand.

    As for Zappos, I picked them for several reasons:

    One: Tony, the CEO who tweets puts his name up front and center - doesn’t hide behind the brand

    Two: He talks to his customers, thanks them, advises them - makes it fun at the same time

    Three: Zappos on Twitter currently has 13K + followers; seems to me they’re doing something right.

  16. 30 September 2008 6:44

    Great post. Telstra certainly have some way to go. It will be interesting to see how any of this is translated beyond words into action.

  17. Lid
    30 September 2008 8:51

    Gavin, thanks.

    I’ve had a rant over on your blog about Mike Hickinbotham’s new BigPond on Twitter post (and subsequent e-mail). I too am interested in seeing how this plays out; the post tells me that they’re ‘listening’ but the @BigPondTeam on Twitter updates tell me otherwise. Still, it’s early days…

  18. 1 October 2008 9:43

    Great post! I wish more companies would follow these guidelines.

3 trackbacks:

  1. Is any social media better than none at all? 2 October 2008
  2. Bigpond, Spam, Twitter and why Australia needs to sort this out « Beyond Digital Media 2 October 2008
  3. 3 October 2008

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