5-step guide to solving problems on Twitter

One of the best parts of social media is that it can often be used as a great way to go around the official layered channels of support, straight to the top of the food chain, and get your problem solved. This was particularly obvious to me when I tried to check in to the W Hotel in Atlanta earlier this week for a brief stay and -- after they lost my reservation -- I was placed in a room with an industrial strength carpet cleaner blowing full force outside my door.

After attempting to solve the problem myself by unplugging the machine only to be blown away by noise a minute later I did what any 20-something passive aggressive complainer would do -- shot a video of the problem, uploaded it to YouTube and shared my experience on Twitter.

You can see the offending carpet drying machine in the video clip below.

Unsurprisingly, it took a phone call to the "Whatever, Whenever" line of the hotel to get the carpet cleaner turned off for the night, but I was quite surprised when I returned to the hotel the next evening and was greeted by a friendly employee who brought a book of "Hotel Hobbies: 50 things to do in a hotel room that won't get you arrested," a tray of snacks, two Bud Lights and an apology for the noise and disturbance from the manager of the W Buckhead. On top of the apology and gesture, the W staff were amazing, which made it easier to get past the noisy first night.

Sure, a phone call to the front desk will normally fix these mistakes, but in my experience these resolutions are often half- hearted and come about only after waiting on hold for someone who can take care of things. On the other hand, uploading my complaint and tweeting about it took a few minutes while I was unpacking and resulted in a more than appropriate resolution.

If you want to use Twitter to solve your customer service complaints, it's actually pretty straightforward. Keep in mind this works best if the company has an official Twitter presence; otherwise it's likely you're just shouting to your friends.

Step 1. Ask yourself if your problem is something that can be fixed, or do you just hate the company you are tweeting about? If it's all about how much you hate a company, this isn't the route you're looking for. But, if it is something that someone with the power to help can fix, continue.

Step 2. Document the problem. More than likely you have a camera or a camcorder built into your cell phone. Take a snapshot of the problem or record yourself talking about the issue. Be sure to explain why it's a problem. It doesn't hurt to add some humor to your complaint.

Step 3. Tweet the problem, with a link to the image or video and be sure to include the official Twitter account of the company if one exists. In my case it was @StarwoodBuzz. You can find the official account by looking on the company's home page or Googling, "company name Twitter account." This means that it is sure to show up to whoever monitors this account and increases the likelihood that your problem will be solved.

Step 4. Wait for a resolution. It doesn't hurt if your complaint goes viral like United Breaks Guitars, but even if your issue is as straightforward as mine was, social media can solve your problem. Just be sure you don't demand the world in your complaint -- you're only setting yourself up to be let down.

Step 5. If your problem is solved, do the right thing and share the outcome.

If you have a social media success story or tip to getting your complaint heard on Twitter, let us know.
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