In the past few days, I’ve seen, or heard of, first efforts from a couple of major Australian ISPs engaging with their communities on Twitter. Unfortunately, it looks like the lawyers got way too involved in the process for the Big Pond Team.

The responses on the account are full of noncommital, anonymous, boilerplate text. It’s just the sort of thing that’s anathema to both good customer service and the kind of open, honest, human conversation that is critical in social networks, and even more critical if you’re trying to engage your community as a brand and business.

Obviously, the Telstra management aren’t influenced by The Cluetrain Manifesto.

I’m assured by someone who knows, that the folks behind @bigpondteam are very good and care a lot. I believe that’s the case. I also hope that the shackles they find themselves bound by are loosened sooner rather than later so that they can really engage with the customer base in a true conversation. In social spaces, artificiality just doesn’t cut it.

There are plenty of examples of great customer service on Twitter – @comcastcares, @johnmccrea, all the Zappos staff to name a few. This is how it should have been done. As it stands, the effort looks false, forced and artificial, which is a real shame.

I wish Telstra had sought the advice of me or one of the other smart people in the Australian social networking community before doing this.

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