Though it’s still one of the top three social networks for B2B marketers, Twitter is struggling. The platform needs to make changes to attract new users, and re-activate dormant accounts, in order to maintain its long-term viability.
Twitter’s revenue is stagnant and the platform lost two million users in the final quarter of 2017. The Motley Fool reported at the end of October that, “the number of frequent tweeters is shrinking — its current monthly active user base of 326 million or so is about 9 million less than it was last year at this time.”
Still, Twitter has nearly 330 million loyal, active users and its importance for customer service is increasing. And it’s still the place to go for breaking news.
So, there’s hope. But to get the platform back on a growth path, Twitter needs to keep key user segments energized. Marketers, PR professionals, bloggers, and journalists have traditional been heavy users.
Previous posts here have highlighted functional enhancements Twitter should make and how Twitter users can be advocates. It’s great Twitter is addressing its issues with bots and trolls, but to really turn around performance, marketing will have to play a key role as well.
Case in Point: Event Marketing
Event marketers in particular have been an active segment: virtually every live event, from 90-minute presentations to week-long conferences, now has its own hashtag. Marketers use Twitter to build interest and attendance before the event; to share the experience in real time and increase engagement during the event; and to connect attendees with related content (e.g., presentation downloads, session video) after the event.
Given its utility, value, and reach, one might presume B2B event planners consider Twitter as essential as their mobile phones. But though 88% of event professionals are active on Facebook, only 60% of planners also use Twitter. And it’s almost shocking how Twitter has failed to attract even that share within some key groups in this segment.
BizBash, the leading publication for event professionals in North America, recently published its list of the Top 500 People in Events, in various categories such as agencies, audiovisual / lighting design, and event education. Of the 68 corporate event producers and strategists on this list:
- More than half (36 of 68, or 53%) have no Twitter presence at all.
- 18 (26%) have inactive accounts (anywhere from two months to more than two years with no new tweets). Three more have barely active accounts (one or two tweets each month), and one has her tweets protected.
- Just 10 (15%) of these event professionals maintain active Twitter accounts.
That’s a tragically small level of penetration in what should be an enthusiastically active segment. What can Twitter do from a marketing perspective? Lots of things.
Previous posts here have covered functional changes Twitter needs to thrive (plus fixing it’s “did you mean…?” functionality; it’s ridiculous the platform still doesn’t display similar accounts if you mis-type a URL by one character) and three ways Twitter fans can help keep the social network vibrant.
Now here are three ideas the social network’s CMO and her marketing team may want to contemplate.
Remind People How Useful It Is
Twitter is arguably the most flexible and capable social network for B2B marketers. Facebook is still, at its core, a place to share life updates and photos of friends and family. LinkedIn is viewed as the leading platform for business professionals, but it’s harder to build a large network there: many users are (understandably) hesitant to accept connection requests from complete strangers there. But the brevity and informality of Twitter makes it more likely that the people you follow will follow you back.
The real-time nature of Twitter makes it ideal for event marketing, as noted above. It’s an excellent platform for promoting events as well as engaging with others during the gathering, whether it’s a corporate-sponsored conference, a trade show, or some type of community involvement.
And Twitter lists are a unique and powerful feature that enable B2B marketers to be more effective with activities such as:
Social listening: Twitter’s wide reach can spread can boost or damage a brand’s image on a global scale, and its real-time nature can make that happen quickly. Oreo famously got priceless PR coverage from its “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. At the other end of the spectrum, the reaction on Twitter was brutal when United Airlines forcibly dragged a passenger off a plane in 2017.
Brand monitoring is vital, enabling marketers, PR professionals, customer service leaders and others to respond rapidly to comments or issues. But it’s also important to keep tabs on what customers and key prospects are talking about on Twitter, even when your brand isn’t the topic. Watching these conversations can reveal chances to share content, engage in conversations, and capitalize on business opportunities.
Competitive intelligence: Listening to what competitors say about themselves can provide insights into their marketing and product strategies. Watching what users, reviewers, analysts, and others tweet about your competitors can yield a broader range of insights.
Influencer marketing: Because of its broad reach and ease of connecting, Twitter is ideal for helping marketers do influencer marketing the right way. It’s the simplest platform for connecting, sharing, and engaging with key industry influencers.
Even spending just a minute or two on an influencer’s Twitter profile can tell you a lot about them. Their number of followers (relative to other influencers in your industry) provides at least a rough gauge of their influence. Their following-to-followers ratio tells you something about how social they are. And looking at what public Twitter lists they’ve created (and who’s on those lists) provides a glimpse into what they view as important.
In terms of real-world live events, business professionals often decide whether to attend a specific gathering, or not, based on who else is expected to be there. Will key customers, prospects, and media be attending this trade show? Will there be speakers I can really learn from at this conference? Will there be “connectors” at this networking event who can introduce me to the right people?
Twitter is sort of an always-on, worldwide networking event. Like a real-world event, it’s noisy. There are a multitude of conversations happening at the same time (as well as a few people who look lost and talking to no one in particular). But finding and becoming part of the right conversations can yield insights, new connections, and lucrative opportunities.
For Twitter, understanding which influencers matter within which communities—and showcasing what those influencers are doing on Twitter—can help attract new users and bring inactive users back to the platform.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a powerful motivator. Missing out on what customers and prospects are saying about your company and its offerings—because you’re not listening and responding on Twitter—can seriously damage brand image. Missing out on broader industry happenings and conversations cause you miss trends or opportunities.
I noticed in doing the research for my new book, The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing Software, that the most successful vendors in each segment usually had a large, active Twitter following, while the least successful firms were missing or inactive on the platform. Of course, correlation doesn’t (always) imply causation, but the relationship in this case is intriguing.
Just as being active on Twitter can create new opportunities, not being there at all creates exposure. No one wants to be caught flat-footed, to be the last to know. Pointing out this risk wouldn’t hurt.
Oh, and a bonus fourth suggestion for Twitter’s CMO: STOP KILLING YOUR PARTNERS. Do the names TwitterCounter, Packrati, Favstar, Social Quant, or MyTopTweet mean anything to you? Because they did to a whole lot of people, before Twitter’s API change killed them. That does not help with growth.
Twitter as a business is seeing some disturbing trends, but it still occupies a singular space among the top social networks it can exploit. It’s unique capabilities and enthusiastic fan base are keeping it vibrant. With a few much-needed functional enhancements and the right marketing moves, the platform still has significant growth potential ahead.