Twitter and LinkedIn remain the top two social networks for B2B marketers. Twitter offers some specific capabilities (such as lists) that make it uniquely valuable for B2B companies.
That said, there are some disturbing signs developing for Twitter (and the B2B marketers who rely on the platform). Per recent research, though 77% of B2B marketers say they use Twitter to distribute content, Twitter use is down 8% since 2014.
Further, “80% of leads sourced through social media for B2B marketers come from LinkedIn…(and) LinkedIn drives more traffic to B2B blogs and websites than Facebook and Twitter combined.”
For the most part, B2B marketers aren’t abandoning Twitter, nor should they. But to maintain its value to B2B companies, the leadership at Twitter needs to recognize the worrisome trends and take corrective action.
In addition to overdue changes to its marketing and functionality, here are four key facts and trends Twitter needs to address in order to reverse its current downward trajectory. These trends emerged from a study of 800 B2B software vendors profiled in The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing Software and follow-on blog posts.
90% of B2B software companies have Twitter accounts—but more than a third are inactive.
Of the 800 vendors studied, 124 have gone out of business, been acquired, or changed Twitter accounts since 2016.
The good news for Twitter is that of the remaining 676 vendors, 610 (90.2%) have Twitter accounts.
The bad news is that only 368 of those (54.4%, or just over half) are actually active.
29.6% of those accounts are dormant, having been essentially abandoned at some point in the last decade. Another 4.1% are barely active, tweeting twice per month or less on average. The remaining 1.5% of accounts were registered but never actually used.
Of the 9.8% of suppliers with no Twitter account, most are developers of free tools or WordPress plugins, with little need for a Twitter presence. But others are hot tech startups like Back.ly that simply don’t perceive the need to be on Twitter—which should be alarming to founder Jack Dorsey and the Twitter marketing team of Leslie Berland, Gap Kim, and Brad Ramsey. If they ever paid attention.
Half of B2B software companies struggle with the “social” media concept.
One measure of how “social” companies are is their follower-to-following ratio, calculated by dividing the number of followers a company’s Twitter account has by how many accounts it is following back. So, for example, if a company has 2,000 followers and is following back 1,600, it would have a social ratio of 1.25 (2000/1600).
When a business is just getting started on Twitter, it may have a ratio of less than one (i.e., the company is following more accounts than are following it), as is the case for 10% of the active Twitter users in this study.
But once established, a business will likely have a ratio greater than one, as most won’t follow back bots, political ranters, barely active accounts, and the like. A ratio of up to 5 is generally viewed as fairly social. A ratio of greater than 10 indicates the business is using the account more as a broadcast channel than for actual social engagement.
Among the 394 even somewhat active Twitter users in this group, 51% are social (social ratio of less than 5). More than a third—37%—are “broadcasters,” with a ratio of more than 10.
The mean (half of accounts scoring higher and half lower) social ratio is 4.4, reflecting the fact that more than half of these B2B software companies are “social” on Twitter. But the average ratio is a stratospheric 411(!), a metric obviously impacted by a small number of companies with ludicrously high ratios.
For example, online contest-builder app Rafflecopter has 612,610 followers, but is following back just 287 accounts—a social ratio (or perhaps in this case, an antisocial ratio) of 2,135. Password generator 1Password is worse, with 119,953 followers and only following back seven; a ratio of 17,136.
But the least social of this entire group? Dropbox. 4,360,429 followers. Following back 62. That results in a (decidedly not) social ratio of 70,329.
Simply having a high follower count doesn’t necessarily make a company unsocial. Social media management tool provider Hootsuite has the highest follower count of all the companies in this study at nearly 7.9 million, yet has a modest 5.6 social ratio.
Less than a quarter of B2B software companies understand brand monitoring.
Brand monitoring on Twitter is extremely simple:
- Log into Twitter.
- In the left menu, click Notifications.
- At the top of the center column, click Mentions.
- Watch for mentions of your brand.
When you see mentions, respond. If it’s a positive mention, acknowledge it. If it’s negative, deal with it. Rocket science this is not.
During this study, every account was mentioned (positively) at least twice. Of the 396 at-least-somewhat active brand accounts, only 92 (23.2%) responded in any way, and a mere 27 (6.8%) went beyond a simple “like” with a retweet or an actual reply. Pathetic.
As a follow-on experiment, the 22 brand monitoring software tools in the group were reviewed in a separate post, which was tweeted out multiple times. Just four (18.2%) of the 22 responded, showing that even the companies whose business is brand monitoring largely fail at it.
Twitter abandonment is increasing geometrically.
Bad Twitter etiquette is one thing; that’s just a combination of ignorance and insolence.
But the pattern of B2B software companies abandoning their accounts, going dormant, simply walking away—is a trend that should scare the crap out of Twitter’s executive team.
Some of the companies walked away from huge followings. Kissmetrics turned its back on more than 244,000 followers; Storify abandoned its following of more than 250,000 users,;Tweepi left behind more than 380,000 people and organizations following the company.
As noted above, about 30% of ongoing B2B software enterprises have gone missing-in-action on Twitter. But they haven’t left the platform in a linear or random fashion. Whether the number of companies abandoning their accounts over time is looked at on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis, the pattern is clearly alarming for Twitter:
The annual value for 2019 is extrapolated from data for the first five months of the year (since an account must have no activity for at least 60 days to be labeled as inactive). While 69 companies in this group abandoned Twitter in all of 2018, there were 35 drops in just the first five months of 2019, which projects out to 84 companies on an annualized basis for this year.
Left unchecked, this would create a death spiral for Twitter.
But fortunately for the company, despite the recent decline in engagement and Twitter’s own missteps (e.g., the appalling #NewTwitter interface), the company still offers differentiating functionality and remains one of the most productive social sites for B2B marketers.
If Twitter’s leadership will wake up to what’s happening, start listening and responding to B2B users, fix the platform’s technical shortcomings, and give tech companies and marketers reasons to remain (or resume being) active—there is yet hope for a chirpy, cheery future.