Twitter – is it really worth the hassle?

By the time you have read this sentence around 18,000 tweets will have been sent worldwide. In fact, on average, around 6,000 tweets are posted every second which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year. Staggering, eh?

Everyone is at it. When the England Cricket team won the World Cup, it was not an official proclamation or a notice in The Times newspaper but a 280 character tweet of congratulations sent by the Monarch (or rather her social media team – I’m not sure Her Majesty is too adept with the old smart phone).

Often a celebrity rates their own importance by the number of followers they can boast. The more people that see their content, the more they feel they have the ability to bypass mainstream media and talk directly to an audience.

But apart from playing who has the most followers, how useful is the medium as a comms tool?

The answer is entirely related to whom you are trying to reach and what you are trying to say:

For instance, if you want to reach an audience of teenagers then research from statisticians Statista finds that in the US only 6% favour Twitter over other platforms – for them, snapchat is the social media drug of choice, with Instagram a poor second.

However, for those in politics it is THE platform of choice and easily outdoes Facebook and Instagram among powerbrokers. According to the 2018 Twiplomacy study (Yes! There really is such a thing), 187 governments and heads of state maintain an official presence on Twitter.

And why? Well, just ask @RealDonaldTrump – it has literally been the making of a President. Twitter is politically polarised but allows that direct access to an audience. But since outrage is the most viral emotion on the internet, unless you are a Katie Hopkins or Piers Morgan who have a professional image as a controversialist to keep up, marketers tread a tricky tightrope between relying on the visceral response provoked by an angry tweet and alienating a potential ally. You can count on Twitter users being engaged by this strategy but can you turn that engagement into a useful tool.

Keep the relatively volatile nature of this environment in mind as you build your Twitter marketing strategy. In other words, don’t use Twitter without thinking unless you want it to come back to haunt you at a later date. It cost Ms Hopkins her house as she was successfully sued for an unwise tweet.

On the flip side – should we really care? After all, apparently the half-life of a tweet is 24 minutes.

In other words, a tweet gets half its interactions in the first half hour, and then starts a long, slow decline petering out into nothingness. This is why some advocates of the medium suggest that you don’t have upward limits on the number of times a brand ought to tweet in a day. In other words, it is so disposable and immediate that if you throw enough digital mud at the wall some is bound to stick. Not always a rule to live by if you are a politician of course but maybe applicable if you are a brand fighting for market share.

Twitter is big for business and a vital part of the marketing mix for consumer brands, with the optimum frequency varying from one to 20 posts per day. So rather than sit with your fingers poised waiting for inspiration it is easier and far more manageable to schedule your marketing driven tweets in advance to catch your audience when they’re online and engaged. Studies have found that engagement on Twitter peaks around mid-afternoon if you’re a business to business focused brand.

Brands tweeting directly to consumers might have even better results scheduling around working hours. (There is lots of dead time to read content on that commute and during a lunch hour – otherwise you may need to talk to Colin from accounts again).

In case you thought Twitter was a passing fad don’t be fooled, it is a significant influencer as to what people really believe is true. In the USA, 71% of Twitter users are now reading news there, which works out to around 12% of all Americans. According to Twitter, 13.6 million people in the UK can be reached by advertising which gives us a clue as to the size of the platform. This number represents 24% of the UK population, aged 13+. The gender breakdown is shared as 60% male and 40% female – however many Twitter accounts are companies, not individuals so would be classed as neutral.

So, to answer the question of whether Twitter is #creativeorcrap…

Until another social media platform comes along and supplants it then for communicating quickly, cheaply and frequently to non-teenagers there is nothing better. No other platform rivals Twitter for cutting-edge news and up-to-the-second happenings. It is not a co-incidence that Twitter made over $1billion dollars net profit in 2018. For clients it is now a must-have medium, but it eats content and so it takes time and this time demands resource.

That said, Twitter is still the wild-west when it comes to reliability. Just because someone or something gives you a point of view, you can be sure it is ultimately not to benefit you… it is all about them.

Finally, for politicians it is as vital a piece of the communications armoury as the coloured Rosette on polling day used to be. But beware, a tweet late at night which seemed a good idea after your 6th glass of Shiraz may come back to haunt you…

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