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To Twit or Not to Twit, That is the Question

Category : social marketing

19

I’m easily intrigued by new tools and gadgets. I wouldn’t say I’m a “first adopter”, but if reviews are good I usually jump in and check it out. Needless to say the buzz about Twitter had caught my attention. So much so that I went out and signed up. But, the minute my account was activated the thrill of signing up quickly wore off. What would I ever use this for?

For those of you not aware of this new social media tool, “Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing. For some friends you might want instant mobile updates—for others, you can just check the web” (from their website). You send a text messege to your Twitter account describing little snippets of your day and your fan base is updated via mobile device or web page.

My efficient nature took over and my mind started racing thinking of ways this could be utilized in marketing. Could this have a function in a small business marketing plan? Some thoughts were coming to mind, but they weren’t great. I decided to email some friends of the Lonely Marketer site and ask them these questions:

  1. Does this tool have a place in an online marketing plan?
  2. Should marketers even consider the tool as a viable resource for connecting with an audience or is this just a fun tool to use among friends?

Along with the questions, I asked them to rank Twitter using the following scale:
4 - A very useful tool for marketing
3 - A somewhat useful tool for marketing
2 - Very little use for marketing
1 – No use at all for marketing

I also asked for relevant Twitter posts they’ve either written or seen if they had any to offer up. Here are some of the responses I received:

Michael JensenSoloSEO
“Although I love the implementation that Twitter has done (IM, Text Message, and Web), I have not found value from Twitter. Twitter seems more of a distraction than a valuable business tool. Other services like IM and email seem to be more effective and less obtrusive.” Rank1


Paul Jahn
LocalMN
Paul uses Twitter mostly for fun but wonders if businesses could gain a viral audience by using the tool as something similar to Aric McKeown who started the Least Dangerous Game. Paul also noted The Technology Evangelist has a Twitter account to send updates on Podcasts and other events. Rank2


Jonathan Mendez
Optimize and Prophesize
“Twitter is likely one of the more challenging tools for marketers because of its immediacy and its close knit use. I’m afraid that like many “social” tools Twitter’s user of the network for business will be hindered by the fact that user expectation is that the tool does not message any marketing or commercial messages. In fact, because it is the most casual of all SM networks and relies on a close knit group, I would expect some backlash from the user base if this were to occur.” Rank2


Aaron Weiche
Prime Advertising Blog
“For most small businesses I would say Twitter has little impact or benefit. In some cases/companies I could see it allowing you to highlight specific services a small business is providing for a client at that time … Prime might Twitter “researching keywords for new restaurant client’s website”. For most small biz people, your time is already stretched, so stay focused on keeping your website current or even blogging before you dabble with Twitter.” Rank2


Mike SansoneConverStations
“I think Twitter could find a place in the small business world as a communications tool across virtual teams – and potentially as a marketing tool depending on the market and target audience. If the “talkers” or “users” of what I’m trying to market are Twitter users, or if Twitter users might touch my target audience, then yes – Twitter should be part of the plan.” Rank3 (depending on the market and target)

Mike did a post recently on Twitter as a business application

Drew McLellanDrew’s Marketing Minute
The challenge in trying to use it as a business tool with an audience is — they all have to sign up for the service AND sign up as your friend. Otherwise, you are out of luck. So it is the ultimate in consumer-driven communications. I can see using it for a short term thing, like a conference or to promote an opening or launch of a product. Some situation where there’s a natural “buzz” and people want up to the minute updates. I can also see it working if you had a powerful community of brand evangelists. Harley comes to mind. Rank3 (in specific circumstances)

Drew’s Posts about Twitter:
Does Twitter have to be useful?
Everyone’s a twitter about Twitter
What was Mickey Mouse Twitter?


Caroline Melberg
Small Business Marketing Mavericks
“I’ll admit that I was skeptical, but after researching Twitter and other micro-blogging sites I’ve had my eyes opened. As a part of an integrated marketing campaign, Twitter has great potential for small business owners – both as a sales tool (quick and easy updating to your blog or website from anywhere – even your mobile phone – of specials, new arrivals, etc.) but also as a resource for helping to build a community with your clients as they begin using Twitter as well. It’s simple to use, quick and convenient – all great benefits for the small business owner looking to increase their web visits, sales and new customers.” Rank4 (as part of an integrated marketing campaign)

Caroline did a post recently on the usefulness of Twitter.


My Opinion

Micro-blogging is in it’s infancy. Like many other social media tools, the longer they stick around more ideas will come forth on using the tool. Douglas Karr did a post about Jaiku (another micro-blogging tool) where he poses the question, “Why aren’t marketers running to Jaiku“. He has some unique ideas that will get you thinking. Chris Pirillo had an interesting post about Twitter and Jaiku. He gives an example of a recent Google search where the top results were from Twitter and Jaiku discussion threads.

If search results start playing into the equation, I bet the SEO/SEM community will find more uses very quickly. Neil Patel writes on Search Engine Land (SEL) about Twitter’s ability to drive traffic and the fact you can put links into your “twits”. Danny Sullivan is also a fan as he’s set up SEL to be followed via Twitter while Andy Beard thinks Twitter is unethical as a business use. Many interesting perspectives!

Is this a tool for small business marketing? Maybe for BtoC, but not BtoB yet. I will say the research for this post and participation of others has me believing it is more than just a goofy instant messeging platform. Mike Sansone’s idea about virtual work groups and Douglas Karr’s post mentioning retailers pushing hot deals to customers got me thinking alot about how tools like this might play a more prominent role in the years to come.

When I’m out of town, I certainly would pay attention to a local Minneapolis sports blogger Twittering a Twins game for nine innings! Or maybe a representative from the Twins Twittering the game and offering “in-Twitter” ticket specials for upcoming games?!

Oh, the ideas could start coming fast now….


Comments (19)

[...] More at: Lonely Marketer Affiliate Fortune Cookies WPStar Small Business Marketing Mavericks [...]

Pat,

Great wrap up. I find it interesting that we push and pull to make every new tool “practical” and find its business use. As I told you, for me Twitter is play.

We need a little down time now and then too!

Drew

Hey Drew,
Thanks! I think for the majority, a tool like Twitter is play and fun and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I may use it for that as well!

The other side are the people that get excited about new mediums of communication and try to adapt them to business and other practical uses. That’s part of the fun for marketers!

[...] Twitter is still new on the scene and it has us marketers scrambling to find ways to effectively use it as a marketing medium. [...]

I really would like to believe that Twitter can be an effective marketing tool, but I personally don’t see it. I’ve been trying to figure out ways that I could effectively integrate Twitter into a broader marketing scheme, and I can’t quite get there.

From what I’ve been reading, a lot of people disagree with me, but their arguments don’t manage to convince me. For a very tech-oriented business, Twitter might be somewhat effective, since the majority of its users are in the tech industry. Beyond that, I see no use for it at this point.

However, as you said, micro-blogging is in its infancy. Who knows what developments could happen even within the next few months. I will be keeping an eye on Twitter (and similar applications) but, for the moment, I see no practical use for it in marketing.

Hey Adam,
Thanks for the comments! I tend to agree with you, but maybe we take Drew’s advice and just have fun with it.

We could set up accounts and use it to “Twit” brainstorms on how to use the tool for marketing? :)

-Pat

Good post Patrick. The subject needed to be discussed, and the conversation here is a clarifying one. I don’t Twitter and don’ plan to recommend it to my clients. Fun is great but not a business strategy.

[...] I posted a while back about the possibilities of Twitter as a content delivery platform, and speculated about ways in which we might use Twitter to push content to potential readers.  In the end the idea is a marketing play, and it looks like Twitter might be getting some traction with some marketers (take a look at this great overview by Mark Silva,) although others are still unconvinced. [...]

Lewis,
I would like to be able to flip ahead a year from now and see where micro-blogging is and how we’re talking about it. Today, though, I think only unique markets have a use for the tool.

-Pat

Thanks for taking a broad view

I could create 100 Twitter feeds full of discount coupons tomorrow if I thought that it would comply with the FTC.

Andy,
I like your post because it raises some interesting questions that I’m betting alot of people are not thinking about. Thanks for contributing!

-Pat

Andy is completely right. I didn’t even think of that possibility. It’s a tactic that I would never employ, but it’s certainly one that spammers will probably think of soon enough. In fact, if Andy has thought of it, someone else probably has as well, and is implementing it as we speak.

However, for legitimate marketers and SEOs, I don’t think Twitter is particularly useful at this point. Perhaps Andy is correct–using Twitter for marketing is not ethical, simply because the way it is designed doesn’t leave much room for legitimate marketing techniques to be effective.

But, again, I’ll be keeping an eye on it. Maybe in another 6-12 months things will change. For now, I’ll just have fun playing around with it.

I just took a look at the public feed and, sure enough, at least two people are spamming Twitter with ads. I saw one (one account, but with at least 4 twits on the most recent public feed page) for online casino ads (linking to a URL for casinoonlineads at the end of every twit); and one that appeared to be for some sort of Spanish language blog or online magazine (again, with at least 4 twits on the front page).

I wonder if Twitter will develop a way to reduce this sort of abuse of the service.

That isn’t any more abusive than Woot or is it Twitlit.

It is the activity, not the scale of doing it that is important.

Also important to note that Twitter feeds are indexed, and some Twitter pages are already PR6.

Mine is a PR4 and hardly used, I know loads of people with PR5 Twitter feeds.

First came across Twitter last week and like you i t intrigued me…until I signed up and tried it out for a couple of minutes and got bored.

I then came across a video interview with David Weinberger who recognised there was something in the concept, but that it would probably have to change to be of use to marketers. The post is here.

And now your post here has got me thinking.

Surely Twitter is perfect for a linked up GPS application. Friends can be retailers with special location based promotions. Events can communicate with people near buy (who have signed up, so have a specific interest)to let them know what’s happening.

So, the value of hearing what your friends are upto at any specific time of the day might not be all that interesting. But heariong about stuff that you’re interested in that actually benefits you…of course is!

Andy,
I think you described the perfect scenario for Twitter right now. It’s for fun, but there are also some interesting applications. Who knows where this will go?

[...] Paul and I expanded our “blog-net-webby-seo-local search-life” sessions to include Patrick and we think adding a few more great MN minds would add to the fun.  If you are a blogger in MN and have any interest drop a comment here and we’ll give you a heads up on the next happy hour time and location.  Patrick might already be Twittering about it non-stop … he confessed a crush on Twitter last night for some reason. I guarantee you’ll learn a ton from even just soaking up Paul and Patrick’s experience and knowledge.  If you want to know more on my expertise, pop over to my day job blog … the FB blog has suffered due to the day job postings.  Poor hobby blog. [...]

Thanks for the link to the post about advertising disclosure being impossible on Twitter. It wouldn’t be that hard to implement and we may consider adding similar functionality to our site.

It might just be of little use to the marketing world. It’s main design is to stay connected with friends.