For the past five months, Justin Vincent's Twitter application went largely unnoticed by the social networking and microblogging site, until last week that is, when Tweetminer was randomly suspended by Twitter.
Founded in October of 2009, by last week, with little to no advertising or marketing, Tweetminer had grown to include 3,000 users. Justin, a solo entrepreneur, is constantly improving the application based on customer feedback and requests, and since he's a one-man operation, he takes a very active and hands-on approach to every aspect of his business, including customer support, where he alone answers all customer questions. And, as a programmer and stand-up guy, he knows better than most what it takes to stay in compliance when developing and managing a third-party app like Tweetminer.
After Tweetminer's suspension, one might think Justin's customers would have been angry with him. After all, many of them pay between $5 and $20 a month to use the service (which helps individuals and businesses grow and maintain a targeted following on Twitter). Not so. Tweetminer's customers quickly rallied to Justin's defense and began a Twitter campaign using the hash tag #FreeTheTweetMiner3000 (the number 3,000 was chosen because Tweetminer has about that many customers).
While the ad-hoc campaign to reinstate the app was in full swing, Justin worked with Twitter to figure out how to get Tweetminer reinstated himself, and at times wondered if he would be able to continue his business at all."I was suspended without any warning," Justin says. "This was devastating for me, my 3,000+ registered users, and especially my paying customers. I honestly felt that everything I'd been working toward for the past six months was all going to be in vain."As Justin worked with Twitter throughout the day last Friday, his customers continued to tweet #FreeTheTweetMiner3000. By the end of the day, Twitter apparently got the message. Justin and Twitter reached an agreement that afternoon and Tweetminer was back up and running before day's end. Justin wrote about all of this on his blog (read I'm playing in Twitter's sandpit, and they're playing fair).
Justin told me he was amazed at the support his customers sent his way.
"Twitter has shown an understanding that rules and policies do have grey areas and that not everyone should be tarred with the same brush. That doesn't sound like the kind of corporate line I'm used to. I'm surprised and impressed with Twitter today, and I'm glad to be playing in their sandpit--they play fair."
Justin Vincent's story intrigued me as an example of two key tenets in business. First, customers will be loyal to you if you give them great customer service. Second, sometimes the big corporate players will actually listen when the "little guy" speaks with more than one voice.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.