Let me summarize:
Basically, SalesForce enables companies to find Twitter users that are talking about their product. This then, through the basic functionality of Twitter, then allows them to send comments through @ replies to the Twitter user, connecting company and user potentially immediately. PCWorld gives the example that, say you are using a piece of software that has been in use by your company for years, and you Twitter about something buggy that is annoying you. Company X can see that you are having issues and quickly let you know that there is a work-a-round. Sound OK, yeah?
Continuing the summary, the question is then brought up, when is the company/user relationship too overbearing. If you are sitting in a coffee shop and a rep from a company overhears your complaints, it’d be nice for them to come over and shed some light once or twice, but if whenever you complain about any product/company, the customer service reps are right there to ‘help’, you can see how this could get overbearing.
I, personally, think there is a simple solution to this issue. It does, however, involve Twitter actually navigating towards a specific business model, which they have strategically avoided for entire 3 years (happy birthday Twitter yesterday btw). Twitter, if they feel that this sort of communication that SalesForce is proposing is a direction that Twitter is meant to go, needs to elaborate on the privacy policies and account types.
Let’s discuss the account types first. I see huge potential in this concept of company/user interaction through a service like Twitter. What if, when a company wants to ‘help’ their clients, like this, they sign up for twitter with a ‘Company’ account type. This makes it easier for regular users looking for this company to actually find the real company, and not some knock-off, and it also helps users in limiting what types of responses (@ replies) they receive.
Now onto privacy policies. With these different account types, a regular Twitter user can vent about a certain company, but also have their privacy settings set such that Company Twitter account types can not view their updates. Or Twitter could take it even further, and when updating a tweet, have a selection box with a user’s default settings, but also enabling the user to send that tweet out to just companies, non-companies, or global. I think this makes everyone happy.
The ownership of this issue is not SalesForce. The ownership of this issue is a complex relationship between Twitter and its users. Twitter needs to enable its users to have the customized experience that they are looking for, while the user needs to understand the service they are partaking of, and be proactive enough to limit, if need be, their profile.
This could go in to a long rant about Facebook and how many people do not understand that the information put up there doesn’t necessarily have to be visible to the world… in fact if it is, it is my opinion that you are not being a very smart web-citizen (or webizen … hah, I just made that up). But that rant will be saved for a later date. I hope Twitter can come to a conclusion about their business goal that will make their service more reputable, more profitable, and overall more reputable. Good luck.