A couple of weeks ago I was locked out of my Facebook account. Annoyingly I don’t know  how exactly it happened. What I can say though is that it was extremely inconvenient, perhaps even slightly distressing at times when friends were purposefully tagging terrible photos – much to their own amusement – which made me aware of just how much I rely on Facebook, mainly for maintaining my personal brand (or perhaps protecting vanity) and organising my social calendar.

Over the course of three weeks I must have attempted to contact the Facebook support team around six times and frustratingly only got as far as the automated response stage. I was subjected to the formalised complaints procedure that @Naked_Pheasant refers to in ‘Curators: It’s the transparency stupid.’ @AJGriffiths suggested that I should get it contact with @SophySilver – Facebook’s Head of Communications (UK & Ireland) – over Twitter. Indeed my problems were solved within less than 20 minutes and my account was back up and running. It was the simplest complaint I’ve ever been blessed with and I’m happy to say that @SophySilver is the type of person who gives PRs a good name.

The evolution of the internet has meant that users can instantaneously connect with people, regardless of geographical boundaries or time zones, or sift through reams of information that would be impossible to thoroughly catalogue in one person’s lifetime.

The way we consume information has also vastly changed as our demands on technology, and our thirst for speed and efficiency, have become integral to our daily routines. As Nicholas Carr outlines in, The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains, technology has made us become much more impatient and demanding.

According to his theory, when we go online we have what he describes as ‘the juggler’s brain’ – “…the Net seizes our attention only to scatter it.” Our ability to concentrate for prolonged periods of time on in-depth material has, as he believes, significantly diminished, as has our patience to do so when there is a vast array of resources readily available to explore.

My patience was definitely tested while waiting for the Facebook support team to come back to me, and although I only contacted them six times, out of habit and repetition my thoughts probably drifted to the situation every time I logged on to my Twitter account – I think Carr would like to hear that.

The question is how long would have been adequate to wait for a response from the Facebook team? Certainly not three weeks, but would three days even be too long? The very nature of Twitter means that audiences want an immediate answer and there is nothing more frustrating than Tweeting a company’s Twitter feed only to find yourself getting ignored while they post about everything else other than the answer to your question.

The concept of Twitter as a customer service tool which provides an immediate response is certainly more agreeable to impatient people like myself, however, this cannot be a reality for every company – particularly ones that are prone to a lot of customer complaints. Twitter can indeed be a more realistic customer service tool, or a supporting tool for other initiatives, for companies that have a dedicated community manager and a support team who are trained and can actually provide solutions in a relatively short period of time (depending on the complexity of the issue, of course). Small businesses who have more contact with their customers are also more likely to be successful with this model. For many larger companies, I can only dream for the time being – or alternatively rely on the PRs 😉