Conversation Threading for Social Care
By Edwin Margulies
Most social customer care professionals find it impossible to track discrete threads of conversation using traditional social engagement tools. At first blush, it might not even seem plausible that Tweets or Facebook posts can be manipulated into sensical conversation threads. But with the proper tools, not only can you make sense of the jumble, you can deftly organize threads and track conversations with your social-aware customers.
What is a Thread?
Simply put, a thread is a topic or theme that couples discrete conversations into a continuum. For example, an email conversation with the same subject line can be threaded by your email client. This is useful because at a glance you can see the progression of a conversation and its participants. This helps you to put context on the latest responses and it makes it easier to keep track of who's saying what to whom.
Can Tweets be Threaded?
Yes they can. It's interesting because I have heard some social experts assert that tweets are meant to be spontaneous and autonomous. Some have said that and any attempt to thread conversations is both naive and useless. Ahh, but tweets can in fact be threaded - if you know what you're doing - and the utility of doing so is a productivity boon for care professionals.
The ability for customer service professionals to search by author and thread on emails is taken for granted. As a care professional, who wouldn't want to be able to zero-in on a specific service issue in seconds instead of stumbling around looking for conversation context manually?
Setting the Stage
Before you jump right in to conversation threading for social care, there are some prerequisites. First, you need the ability to establish an Author Profile for each person you are having a conversation with. With a CRM-integrated system this is easy. For stand-alone social engagement systems, you of course need a platform that both captures and catalogs each discrete author. The more advanced systems allow you to manage multiple social handles for each author.
Second, your social engagement system needs a database with which to store and pull-up authors' tweets and your responses to them. First generation social engagement systems don't do this so you may need to upgrade. More advanced systems allow you to scroll through the history of conversations by author - regardless of the social media source of the post.
Third, you need a mechanism to create, store, and recognize conversation threads. Some of the work is up to the agent to determine the moniker of each thread. That's like deciding the subject line of an email, so it's a task most of us are familiar with.
Once you have the proper infrastructure and social care platform in place, threading strategy is pretty straightforward.
First, take a look at the attributes of a specific post to get clues for starting a thread. In an earlier blog, we discussed two-tiered clustering. Here, the first cluster is a persistent business issue such as "billing" or "service." The second cluster is more of a word cloud representing a trending topic. By eyeballing these two attributes, you are able to quickly determine a proper conversation thread name.
For example, let's say the first-tier cluster name is "service" and the trending topic is "broken screen." You could glance at the content of the post and confirm that a good name for the thread is "iPhone Screen Repair."
Second, if your system allows it, you can tag the post with a "flag" indicating that there is a conversation going on with this author. Based on the rules engine you are using, you may even be able to trigger a flag on incoming posts from that author as a "heads up" there is a current conversation going on with that person. This is useful in prioritizing posts at a glance.
Third, you can use discrete numbers or codes in the thread name so your case management system can be linked in. Some systems will automatically generate a case number, so that makes it easy. Some social engagement systems are integrated with CRM systems that have built-in case management, so it's a good idea to exploit those capabilities so your cases and conversation threads are in lock step.
Conversation threading in a social engagement for customer care setting is not only possible, but will quickly become standard for professional grade platforms. You can take advantage of clustering and other social post attributes to quickly ascertain the naming for conversation threads so your author searches and outreach become more automated.