As a digital marketing aficionado, you’re used to rocking your social media plan. Facebook is solid, and Instagram is going gangbusters. But your Twitter marketing strategy? It doesn’t seem to be paying off.
Plenty of brands are finding themselves in this same position. Compared to more visual social platforms, Twitter doesn’t seem to have the ROI it used to. Accordingly, marketers are asking themselves: is it time to shift resources elsewhere?
While some of this Twitter rethink may be justified, it’s also true that brands may be approaching Twitter in a less than optimal way. Twitter has evolved since its inception in 2006, and you can’t market on Twitter the same way you do on Facebook, Instagram, or any of the other social platforms. Twitter is still a part of your brand’s story, but it now has a lot more to do with conversation and customer experience than a great ad or sponsored post.
Twitter’s weaknesses as a marketing channel stand out when compared to other platforms. For some brands, Facebook and Instagram offer advantages that Twitter can’t match, including big audiences, visual features, and better advertising options, according to Digiday. For brands with highly visual content, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat would be a better fit and earn stronger engagement.
Accordingly, brands are shifting their investment focus. In a survey from RBC Capital Markets reported on by CNBC, 30 percent of respondents did not allocate any spending to Twitter, an increase of 5 percent from a few months prior. Tellingly, only 24 percent said they believed their ROI improved because of campaigns on Twitter.
Publishers, too, are rethinking their emphasis on Twitter, a noteworthy development since Twitter has positioned itself as the go-to platform for breaking news. Paul Berry of Rebel Mouse, a company that helps publishers amplify content on social, told Digiday that Twitter is an afterthought for media companies today. “We don’t see any media companies on our platform who are either having success driving traffic on Twitter or have that as a goal anymore,” he said.
Twitter may be important for journalists, but for publishers overall, it isn’t a major driver of traffic. A typical publisher earns just 1.5 percent of its overall traffic from Twitter. On the other hand, Facebook and Google generate about 40 percent each, according to Parse.ly. Even Yahoo refers more traffic.
But that doesn’t mean brands and publishers are abandoning the platform entirely. Twitter remains an important platform for breaking news. For example, tweets sending traffic to publishers exploded after news broke about the Brussels attacks.
Twitter is also becoming a vital communications channel for brands and their customers. Customers turn to Twitter to get help solving problems, ask a question, air a concern, or offer praise. People can even tweet out an emergency requests for toilet paper on the train (as I previously noted on this blog), and a brand will come to the rescue.
Given this mixed bag, is Twitter still a worthy destination for your marketing dollars? The answer: it depends.
Large brands are using Twitter as a powerful customer service tool, and Twitter is emphasizing this capability with new features to make customer services processes smoother. If your customers go to social media to ask your help in solving problems, you’d better be there to answer their questions.
But perhaps your customer service needs on social media are minimal. Successful businesses are also using Twitter to drive engagement with niche audiences. General Electric, for instance, has segmented its Twitter feeds into multiple accounts intended for different audiences. Heath care gurus can get GE’s latest innovations at @GEHealthcare; aviation nuts can get their weekly fix of aircraft photos via @GEAviation.
— GE Aviation (@GEAviation) February 1, 2017
For smaller companies, however, splitting off accounts might be more hassle than help. If you really want to reach customers on Twitter, you need to think about conversing both one-on-one and one-to-many with the Twitter community. An effective way to do this is through a spokesperson or thought leader who can humanize your brand and inject its story into the conversation.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere has this approach locked down. The iconic leader mixes brand promotion with his personal insights on everything from Beyoncé to robots. What’s more, he’s jumping in on conversations. If you complain about your current cell phone provider on Twitter, you might just get the T-Mobile CEO tweeting at you to encourage the switch.
— Indiana (@Indianaa_Xoxo) January 24, 2017
In the above example, note how powerful and personal Legere’s tweet is compared to Verizon’s stock response.
Twitter isn’t an easy platform to master, but there are still compelling reasons to stick with it. Just remember that Twitter is less about likes and more about conversation. As Twitter evolves, thought leaders and content creators who form a bond with their community will wield the influence. If you’re going to spend money on the platform, spend it on the influencers and content creators who can maintain the social community and tailor messages directly to them. A top Twitter marketing strategy recognizes that the real brand storytelling happens in conversation with other users.