What is The VaporCustomer? If you want to use social media this is a must know!


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In software people talk about vaporware — software that is promised, or coming soon, but may never appear. You wouldn’t want to base your business existence on vaporware. And you wouldn’t want to base your customer service strategies or marketing on vaporcustomers.

Vaporcustomers are people who appear to be “there” (let’s say on Twitter, or on Facebok), but actually are not. They show up in numbers, so vaporcustomers will be counted in your total number of followers on Twitter. On Facebook, they are counted as Friends, or Fans, if you have a fan page, but guess what? They aren’t there.

They may, for all intents and purposes, have never been there in a way that you could communicate with them. Twitter has the largest percentage of vaporcustomers because it’s one of the newest social media platforms. If you look at your followers, and identify the number who have not actually sent a tweet in 30 days or more, that number will be an approximation of the number of vaporcustomers you have. You can do that on Twitter. On Facebook or LinkedIn I know of no way to find that information out. My estimates are that of every 100 twitter followers, about 20% are actually using it at any given time, and 80% are vapor.

Of the existing 20 people many will not be interested in you, or in fact be available to see your Tweets, meaning that (and this is specific to Twitter), your effective reach for every 100 followers is tiny. For every 100 followers, if you have 5-10 that actually read any specific tweet, that would be good. This is on average. Obviously if you are famous, it’s a different deal.


Someone said on a recent Twitter chat that it makes sense to go where your customers are, and the reality is that the numbers look huge for Twitter, Facebook, etc, but the “reachable people” are a tiny fraction. An incredibly tiny fraction. Sometimes I wonder if nobody wants you to know this, but I’m not much for conspiracy theory. Be that as it may you need proper understanding of social media before you commit your business to it. This applies specifically to customer service where every additional channel (in person, telephone, mail, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc) adds MORE COST to what is essentially viewed as overhead.

Social Media costs are much higher than gurus admit, and in particular the opportunity costs (what you miss elsewhere while you are spending your time doing Twitter, or something like that) can be huge.

Consider the cost of follower acquisition, and understand:

1) No matter what the gross number of followers might be, the reachable people are a tiny fraction, and the people who will see and read you are much tinier than that.
2) There may be millions and millions of people on facebook, but they are also vaporcustomers because the huge majority have no interest in you and will never be interested in you, so the overall numbers probably don’t mean much, particularly if you count the dead vaporcustomers.

Often a social media presence is a bad idea. If I sell Porsches, I’m not going down to the Bowery to provide customer service because there are so many people there. And I’m not going to a free Goth rock concert even if it attracts a million people who don’t get out much.

PS. Next time you converse with someone suggesting you jump on the social media bandwagon for customer service ask them this: If I have 1000 people following, and I send a tweet/status update, how many people read it? How many responses should I get?

If they can’t give you numbers (even close approximations) they are frauds who don’t know what they are talking about. Get the numbers before you commit. If you can’t get the numbers, why are you doing what everybody else is doing?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.


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