Is Twitter dying?
That seems to be a common question right now, according to Google.
“Dying” may be too strong a word, but the microblogging social network is clearly struggling. Adrian Segar recently wrote, “The effectiveness of Twitter as a connective social media channel is declining…the rate at which users follow established accounts has slowed dramatically. As the year draws to a close I’m seeing further evidence that conversations in the twittersphere are drying up too.” The conclusions are based on his experience but, as he points out, backed up by corroborating evidence from other sources.
In July, The Next Web (TNW) concluded Twitter “isn’t even close to dying,” despite reporting zero percent growth in visitors. The Outline, looking at the same quarterly report, concluded just the opposite.
TNW reported “Despite ongoing struggles to curb harassment and premature obituaries, Twitter is here to stay. The truth is the platform is too valuable to be left to die.” Fans hope that’s the case, but the trend shown in Recode’s graph seems to show a clear decline.
Twitter’s difficulties are distressing to many B2B marketers. What Twitter offers in terms of audience building, traffic driving, customer responding, support providing, socially engaging features is unique.
Facebook and Instagram just feel inappropriate (like talking business at a family function or night out with friends—awkward).
LinkedIn is the right environment but doesn’t offer businesses the same capabilities individuals have, and doesn’t offer any functionality comparable to Twitter lists or tweet chats. Furthermore, LinkedIn groups are challenging because each moderator sets his/her own rules (is posting a link to relevant blog post viewed as helpful, or spam?), and because LinkedIn has wrecked groups functionality, leading to a significant drop in participation.
A continued decline for Twitter would be bad news for B2B marketing professionals, the loss of a valuable, versatile tool.
Turning performance around is primarily the responsibility of the team at Twitter, of course. They need to fix deficiencies and capitalize on new ideas, as noted in Three Things Twitter Needs Thrive, published here previously.
But fans of the social network can do a few things to help keep it vibrant as well. Here are three ideas.
Other than celebrities (and it’s not clear Lady Gaga has a big B2B following), the most popular accounts are generally quite engaging.
First, follow back! (At least more often than not.) Granted, there are a number of types of Twitter accounts is not only fine but advisable not to follow back: obvious bots and spam accounts, anything or anyone who’s abusive, inactive (less than a few tweets per month), overactive (four or more tweets per hour, with the exception of tweet chats or live-tweeting an event), NSFW, or excessively self-promotional.
A reasonable imbalance between followers and following is inevitable, but accounts with numbers this skewed are missing out on potentially interesting content and valuable new connections, and certainly don’t look welcoming to newer Twitter users.
Bill Schmarzo, CTO of Dell EMC Services (aka the Dean of Big Data), summarized follow-back etiquette concisely and sensibly in a recent tweet:
Second, interact! Ask questions. Answer questions. Use direct messaging judiciously but helpfully (avoid auto-DMs). Create lists. Retweet good stuff.
Paper.li is a nice tool, but too much of a good thing is rarely good. It turns off experienced Twitter users and makes the platform seem much less welcoming to new tweeps.
Encourage Business Use
While plenty of businesses wouldn’t give up their Twitter accounts any more than they’d stop using phones, it’s surprising at this stage how many companies—even some that are quite large—either don’t have a Twitter presence, or have a corporate account that’s gone dormant (no new Tweets over the past year or longer).
If you come across one of these, find a contact name or page on the company website and ask (politely, of course) about their lack of presence. Something like “I was researching companies in this industry, and most of your competitors are active on Twitter, but I couldn’t find your company there. Did I miss it?”
Or: “I checked Twitter for the latest news from your company couldn’t find your account” (or noticed it hasn’t been updated in a while, as the case may be). If possible, take screenshots of recent brand mentions on Twitter—whether positive or negative, it’s important to let the company Twitter users are talking about it, and the company may be deaf to those conversations.
The more companies that view maintaining an active Twitter presence as essential, the more productive the platform will be for B2B marketers.
Use Tools and Automation Carefully
There are dozens of useful Twitter tools available to help with tasks like research, brand and topic monitoring, finding relevant new followers, and analytics.
By all means take advantage of technology to make your Twitter activity more effective and productive. Just don’t over-rely on tools to run Twitter on autopilot; it becomes obvious and will cost in terms of lost followers.
Twitter has make its share of missteps, but its unique features give it an opportunity to maintain its spot as a top social network for B2B. By capitalizing on its strengths and encouraging B2B use, it can avoid becoming just a message board for short-form political rants.