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Online Marketing

Twitter for Business-a Total Waste of Time?

twitter for business

Do you wonder about the value of Twitter to promote your business?

Should you spend more time building a Twitter following?

Or should you spend your valuable and scarce time on other tasks-tasks that will provide you with a better return on your time-and perhaps new business?

What ‘the Atlantic’ discovered

‘The Atlantic’ is a famous American magazine, founded in 1857 as ‘The Atlantic Monthly’. A senior editor, Derek Thompson, published an interesting article recently raising some interesting questions about the value of Twitter.

Now, bear in mind: Derek Thompson has, as I write this, 28,000 Twitter followers. So, this fact needs to be borne in mind in relation to when you compare his experience to yours, particularly in relation to whatever level of success (or failure) he experiences.

Thompson studied the data in a new Twitter feature, View Tweet Activity. The ‘dashboard’ allowed Thompson to see how many times his Tweets appeared on others’ screens, how many times they clicked on it, and how many times they in turn shared it with their Twitter followers.

The figures are, quite frankly, astonishing-and worrying if you spend a lot of time on Twitter hoping to attract people back to your website or blog with a view to growing your business.

What are the findings, then?

He had published an article in The Atlantic about the history of American innovation as seen through a study of patent text literature. He showed how the study demonstrated that chemistry concepts dominated science in the early 20th century, but from the 1980s onwards medicine and computers dominated the patents literature.

He wrote his Twitter message with a link and a nice picture of the Top 20 Most Popular New Idea Inputs by Decade.

The result?

His tweet had 155,260 impressions-that is, it showed up this many times on peoples screens.

2.9% of those people clicked the image and 1.1% retweeted it or favourited it.

And 1% of the people who saw this tweet clicked on the link to read the story.

Yes, 1%.

1%-1,537 people from 155,260 impressions-started to read the article on the Atlantic website.

This prompted Thompson to take a look at his 100 most popular tweets of 2014, and he discovered a click through rate of 1.7%.

Evidently, the traffic that Twitter is sending to the Atlantic website is paltry and insignificant, and an appallingly poor use of time.

Now, that conclusion is mine, and it’s clearly a rational one.

Thompson’s view is that this is an unsophisticated conclusion, and the more accurate one is that it would be fair to say that Twitter is worthless for driving traffic to your website.

Well, driving traffic to your website is critical to grow your business, and the principal reason why you would be spending time on Twitter.

Thompson correctly concludes that 99% of his work on Twitter benefits Twitter, and not the Atlantic website.

That’s fair enough-and great for Twitter. But if you are a small business owner with limited resources and time, it’s really not worth a curse.

Where Twitter excels

Let me be clear: I like Twitter.

It allows me to get real time GAA results of matches that won’t feature on the national media radar-for example, local parish teams; and it allows me to ‘follow’ celebrities and see what they have to say-no matter how anodyne-about various topics; and sometimes I check out a very current story-for example, the conflict in Ukraine-and I get to see comments and pictures from real people on the ground, which may never appear in the newspapers.

Twitter for business

But Twitter for business? It’s pretty useless, and a poor use of your time.

In saying that, I do make a qualitative differentiation between social media ‘gurus’ and professionals who make a living from social media coaching and consulting, and the small business involved in professional service provision, or retailing, or construction, or manufacturing, or any of the other myriad businesses that make up an economy.

The social media professional can generate plenty of business from teaching others how to use ‘twitter for business’.

People like Laura Fitton.

Fitton co-wrote the book ‘Twitter for Dummies’, started an app business for Twitter,oneforty, sold out, and now works for HubSpot as an ‘inbound’ and Twitter guru.

I was fascinated to listen to a podcast recently with Laura Fitton as a guest on SocialMediaExaminer.com. The topic of the episode was ‘Twitter for Business’.

As examples of how useful Twitter is for business, Fitton cited 2 examples from her own personal experience.

She recounted how a Verizon telephone cable was down in her neigbourhood, and how she used Twitter to get in touch with Verizon who sorted out the problem. She also spoke about ordering a coat from some company and her order being cancelled due to the coat being out of stock. She contacted the company through Twitter who sourced a coat somewhere, brought it back to the warehouse, and sent it out to her.

These 2 examples of how useful Twitter is supposed to be for business focus on how businesses can use it to accept and deal with customer complaints-a kind of service line, if you like. Fair enough.

But they offer no evidence whatsoever of how either company can use Twitter to generate new business.

And it could be argued that if their service department was adequately manned with phone lines and service people, these problems could have easily been solved, and not just for people with Twitter accounts, a large following, and the implied threat of a lot of bad publicity on a popular social media platform.

Bear in mind that Fitton has over 130,000 followers.

It would also be interesting to see how these companies would have dealt with Fitton if she had 5 followers (including her mother and spouse) rather than the 130,000 that she has. Incidentally, if you take a look at Fitton’s profile on Twitter, you will see that she follows over 100,000 people.

This figure clearly shows the 2 lies that lie at the heart of the ‘Twitter for business’ cheerleaders:

  1. there is no way anyone can ‘follow’ 100,000 people. Fitton ignores them, because she simply has to but she needs to ‘follow’ this many people to flaunt a huge number of followers for herself. Let’s be honest-you can’t position yourself as a Twitter guru, speak at social media conferences, publish books about Twitter, and sport a couple of hundred followers.
  2. you will nearly always see this correlation in numbers between the number of followers you have, and the number you follow. Put simply, if you follow someone, the likelihood is that they will follow you back. That doesn’t mean they will read your Tweets, or click on your links, just as Derek Thompson discovered.

How to increase Twitter followers

So, to increase the number of followers you have, simply follow more people.

However these people probably won’t read your Tweets because their stream will be too full; and you won’t read theirs, because you’re too busy building Twitter followers and simply cannot go near your Twitter stream due to the overwhelming flow of Tweets.

Meanwhile, you grow your ‘followers’, and wonder why this doesn’t really mean anything.

Recently, I did a fair bit of research myself on Twitter, particularly on how to grow a following, and I grew my following by over 100%. I then shared a lot of links and Tweets which dealt with various aspects of the law in Ireland. Now, these Tweets and links would only have been of benefit to Irish residents, as they deal with the law in Ireland.

But I had people from the United States, and other parts of the world, retweeting and favouring my Tweets-because most of the Tweets had the hashtag ‘small biz’ and ‘small business’.

However, these Tweets, and links, were of no benefit to people outside Ireland, and if I was naive or vain I may have been happy with the retweets. But I know they they were of no benefit whatsoever to non Irish residents, and, therefore, will not generate any new clients or leads for my business.

The best I can hope for is that 1% of people who see the Tweets visit my website. However, this really isn’t a good use of my time.

What now for Twitter and your business?

So, what about you and your business?

Make up your own mind. Don’t just take accept my view, or the views of so called ‘gurus’ as received wisdom.

Try it for yourself, but be ruthless in assessing the results.

And be ruthless in how you spend your time and resources in order to generate new business.