Twitter is the undisputed king of real-time marketing in social media. And yet brands are often challenged to work out exactly what role it should play in the mix. It can be used to create awareness, drive engagement, and play a crucial role in customer service. But how do you strike the right balance? Recent developments in terms of the platform’s functionality and audience make up may point to a clearer understanding of the true role of Twitter in consumer marketing.
What is the best way to use Twitter in the social marketing mix? It’s a question increasingly being asked by brands as they wrestle with how best to allocate resources to get the most out of the platform. In order to come up with an optimal answer, let’s look at some of the key considerations when deciding on an effective Twitter approach.
Much has been made of the ever dwindling organic reach of Facebook. And yet it could be argued that Twitter suffers from much the same problem (albeit for different reasons).
On Facebook, the squeeze on organic is driven by the increasing volume of content and the use of algorithms to select the content shown in a user’s feed. Twitter doesn’t filter anything. It throws everything at you in chronological order. As content volume increases on Twitter, the likelihood of your content being seen organically continues to fall in a similar way to Facebook.
When Twitter began making actual impression data available last year, many marketers were disappointed by the generally low numbers. Whereas previously they may have used aggregated follower numbers to determine potential reach, the actual data shows that the average tweet reaches around 3 to 5 percent of an account’s total follower base (assuming they are real accounts and not fakes).
Brands seeking to use Twitter to build awareness organically are going to have to invest heavily in content that will persuade people to share it in sufficient numbers to drive up organic reach. And there is no guarantee of virality.
Twitter As A Paid-For Platform
Twitter’s advertising platform has evolved considerably over the last 12 months. The granularity of targeting is considerable, and Twitter offers a wide variety of ad format opportunities as well as conversion tracking capability.
Given the challenge of organic reach, then using a paid-for approach may well be the best way to use Twitter for the purpose of reach and visibility. Having said that, simply repurposing a TV ad for promotion on Twitter probably isn’t going to be as effective as content built for social.
Another factor to consider is the primacy of Twitter usage on mobile. Most tweeting is done on a mobile device today.
Twitter users are generally passive consumers rather than active participants. Getting the tweet to appear on a small mobile screen and arresting the attention of the typical user is no meant feat. Attention to context and timing is paramount.
Demographics & Behavior
Depending on the country, the demographics of Twitter users are often heavily skewed towards younger age brackets. Making assumptions about general populations based purely on Twitter can lead to erroneous conclusions.
The current UK general election campaign is an excellent example. Adam Parker, CEO Realwire has written about how the UK media is making predictions about voter intentions based on a naive analysis of Twitter data. UK Twitter users aren’t representative of the overall voting population. And the apparent amplification of certain parties messages is actually the result of a small, but highly active group of partisan users.
In a similar way, consumer marketers need to take care in understand the demographic makeup of Twitter and to what extent it truly represents the audiences they are trying to reach.
The Rise Of Social Search
Facebook revealed that more than 1 billion searches are conducted on its mobile app every day. While not on the same scale, the average Twitter user will perform at least one search on the platform per day.
The rise of social search continues. What is particularly interesting is that it is indicative of people using social search in much the same way as they use Google search – to validate the claims a brand makes through its advertising and awareness campaigns.
Increasingly, a key role of social is in the consideration phase of the sales funnel. This suggests that the customer service role of Twitter takes on an additional importance, namely, that the visibility of positive interactions could have a key role on prospects further up the funnel and that proper resource and consideration should given to the customer service role of Twitter.
Where Does This Leave The Consumer Marketer?
First, it is important to be crystal clear about your objectives and what role you hope Twitter can play. Also, be aware of the demographics and behavioral biases of Twitter users.
The days of seeing Twitter as a way of gaining cheap reach are probably long gone (if they ever existed). If reach is the aim, then a paid-for element is almost certainly needed. If engagement is the goal, then be aware that a relatively small subset of the Twitter user base are the ones most likely to engage at all.
Depending on the audiences targeted, it may well be the Twitter isn’t an appropriate venue for proactive engagement. But the role of Twitter as a consumer validator is going to be hard for brands to ignore.
There probably will need to be a commensurate increase in focus on the customer service element of Twitter (the recently reintroduced ability to open up direct messaging to any user rather than just reciprocal followers suggests that Twitter too is looking at ways to help expand the ability for different types of interaction within a community).
A brand’s overall goals and objectives should drive the best use of Twitter. The challenge will be to make sure that the right goals are aligned with an appropriate use of Twitter in relation to the true nature of the platform and the audience.