Too many businesses make the mistake of ignoring Twitter. There are some people who look at it, but don’t understand it, and there are massive numbers of dormant accounts.
The point isn’t that everyone is on Twitter; the key is understanding what you can do with it and why you need to be there.
Twitter is still the most efficient network for reaching out to busy people who have gatekeepers on their phones and email, but you need to be careful on Twitter to make sure you are getting the most out of it and don’t end up “ghost banned,” also known as “shadow banned.” (More on that near the end of this post.)
How to Generate and Close Social Leads on Twitter
What most small businesses have not yet discovered is that Twitter is useful for generating leads. Even better, there are methods of attracting those leads and determining whether they are interested in interacting–without having to do it manually.
The automated lead generation platform Socedo identifies potential leads based on their Twitter activities. Socedo automatically chooses one of their tweets to favorite; it then waits an hour and follows them.
A personalized tweet offering a landing page or a conversation starter is sent when they follow back. Reports within the platform will allow your sales team to decide whether to follow up (approve), decide whether they are not your target audience (decline) to follow up, or set the lead to a lower priority for possible contact later.
Socedo can modify your targeting to better qualify your leads based on your actual results. Instead of focusing on growing an untargeted following and not turning them into leads and sales, Socedo ensures your business is focused on driving ROI from your Twitter activities.
Twitter is expected to grow because the use of mobile devices continues to grow. Between the short text length, the visual nature of top tweets, and the ability to embed videos–including Twitter’s own Vine–Twitter is perfectly suited to mobile users.
There are an abundance of Twitter apps, including JoyofAndroid.com’s 10 Best Twitter Apps for Android. Eight of the top ten are completely free, and the other two only cost $1.99 each, so finding the perfect app for your business shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
If someone wants to make sure they get your attention, they might send a Vine recording (7-second video) telling you why they are reaching out. Conversely, if you need to reach an influencer and they’ve ignored your efforts to date, try sending them a Vine.
StartGadget offers a list of the “Best Twitter App for iPhone and iPad” which includes a mix of commonly used Twitter management tools, some free apps, and new premium apps most have never seen before.
Twitter Best Practices
Using Twitter like a pro is a complicated task. Fortunately, Julie Weishaar at NewHorizons123.com took all the Twitter how-to posts I’ve written over the years and compiled them into Twitter Best Practices and created this SlideShare highlighting the most important points:
See the source post for how-to information; there is help for beginners who have never used Twitter or social media before as well as advanced strategies for Twitter influencers.
Finding Influencers on Twitter
After prospecting for leads themselves, the next most important method for generating an income from Twitter comes from reaching the audiences influencers have already built. There are multiple solutions available to identify influencers by niche:
Klout. Although Klout was the earliest tool for finding influencers and is still the best known, the disadvantage to using Klout is that there is only one number for influence.
When choosing influencers, always keep in mind where their influence lies. You want to find the most targeted audience for your message; if their audience isn’t related to yours, having them promote your business is a waste of your money.
Kred. Kred is better in that it offers two numbers specific to particular niches: one for influence and the other for outreach level. The same person can have high influence and outreach levels related to some subjects and low numbers for others.
Having a lot of influence but a low outreach level means that an influencer isn’t interacting with their audience in a way that is likely to benefit you.
Klear. A newer measure of influence, I mentioned Klear in my previous post about social analysis tools. The snapshot Klear provides indicates what that influencer is most known for, whether they are “friendly,” and whether they are in the Top 10%, 5%, 1%, 0.5% or 0.1%.
Klear also shows which other influencers a Twitter user interacts with most often and shows their top content for “All Time” or “Recent.”
Even regular users of Twitter are often unaware that Twitter acquired Crashlytics in January 2013 and integrated the analytics into its platform. To access them, click on your Avatar image in the upper right corner and select “Analytics.”
New Twitter Features
Twitter has announced a New Customer Service via DM Option and Feedback Tools and “buy now” buttons (available only in the U.S. so far). Twitter’s Buy Now integrates with e-commerce platforms, but appears to be only available to major brands at this time.
The “While You Were Away” feature is being made more prominent. It is easy to create polls from within Twitter, but they are more limited than those created using third party apps.
Most Popular Brands on Twitter
Many major brands are reaping benefits from being active on Twitter. Take the lead of these brands and what they are doing to generate ideas for your own campaigns:
Find interesting information and statistics in this free “Twitter Customer Service Playbook” by Twitter. The playbook provides 122 pages of case studies, trends, statistics, and information on how to use Twitter to provide customer service. It also includes the graph below that shows the increase in tweets between brands and consumers:
Challenges Surrounding Twitter
As always happens when a social network goes public, Twitter is making changes that many find painful. Before investing time and money into building an audience on Twitter, make yourself aware of these critical issues:
Stock price. The price for Twitter stock had been declining since their IPO; it dropped 18 percent in April 2015 after the company’s quarterly report was leaked early and earnings were lower than expected.
However, when Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey announced on August 13, 2015, that he would stay on as CEO, earnings increased, and the stock reversed direction as shown here:
In spite of stalled growth, U.S. News and World Report reported:
Twitter has everyone that matters–90 percent of the world’s leaders, kings, celebrities, rappers and athletes. They have total ownership of every single live event. Nobody is watching those events and sitting with Facebook on their phone or laptop,” [Joshua M. Brown, a financial advisor and CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management in New York] says. “There is a lot of opportunity when you have every major organization and when you have total ownership of these kind of live events.”
Growth has leveled off. Unlike Facebook, which has continued to grow as shown in the graph below, Twitter growth has stagnated. Controversial decisions made by Twitter management are driving away its core user group.
Because Twitter is publicly traded, it is trying to transition to a broader audience which is very different from its current fans and advocates. In its quest to become more accessible to the masses, Twitter must balance the needs of those future users while keeping current users happy.
Remember the first image in this post? What Twitter needs is not more active users; it needs to accept that the core users who like Twitter the way it was are the ones creating the content the “inactive” users are consuming.
You don’t change passive consumers of media into creators. Ask any forum owner since the Internet began, and they can tell you that only a small percentage of the users in any community are what keeps it thriving. Whatever you do, you must not run off these creators, because when they stop creating, there will be no reason for consumers to stick around.
Proposed Twitter algorithm. Instead of the live stream Twitter users have always had, it is likely that Twitter will change to an algorithm that decides what users see in their streams. This is particularly unpopular with the core Twitter users who think for themselves and like to control what they see by using Twitter lists.
After many paid to build large followings on Facebook, over time Facebook’s algorithm has consistently reduced the percentage of followers who see what businesses and brands share, forcing users to pay for ads and promoted content.
This will likely be eventually true on Twitter; however, due to the more public nature of Twitter, it may not be as detrimental for those using Twitter for business. Brands should focus on gathering leads now while there are fewer limitations in place.
Proposed end of the 140 character limit. There is a lot of buzz about Twitter eliminating the 140 character limit. This is a widely disliked idea because it is what makes Twitter unique. If Twitter makes this change, why should people use Twitter instead of Medium or any other blogging platform?
Fortunately, Twitter has said that if this should happen, only the first 140 characters will appear in the Twitter stream, with a “more” option to see the rest. Therefore, this will still force wise Twitter users to be succinct with their words.
Twitter Mentions. Twitter Mentions provides some insights into what the mainstream and Twitter think is important. While most of us find it rather irrelevant, John Battelle of NewCo suggests in 12 Predictions for 2016: From Tesla to Apple, Twitter to China:
Twitter makes a comeback. Ouch, 2015 was not kind to Twitter, especially if you were a stockholder. But in 2016, Twitter will find a way back to mainstream relevance (and stock appreciation). How? Well, I’m threatening my own chances at getting this prediction right by being too specific, but here goes: Twitter will take Moments, which was not exactly a hit with the Twitterati (IE, folks like me), and begin to evolve it to a far more granular level. At present, Moments are very lowest common denominator — NFL highlights, reality TV roundups, you know, standard Yahoo home page crap. But if Twitter can take each of our interest graphs and create automated “Moments” that deliver true value, well, that’s something everyone would appreciate. The first version of Moments was built for those who don’t really use Twitter. The next rev will be for those that do — and that could change everything. Extra credit prediction: Twitter will tap crowd-sourced curators to create Moments, and that will create a new ecosystem of value for both the company and its constituents.”
We can hope that perhaps Twitter reads these words and moves in that direction. Serious Twitter users have no objection to there being a “Twitter Mentions.” We just hope our entire Twitter experience doesn’t turn into an algorithm-driven-only option.
When social networks only show content based on algorithms, brands end up having to use sex, nudity, and celebrities to get seen. Important and serious topics get relegated to invisible.
Inappropriate content. Speaking of nudity, Twitter’s system for flagging inappropriate content could use some serious work. Every day we block offensive accounts, nudity, and objectionable offers that apparently Twitter’s “inappropriate content” filter can’t recognize.
Meanwhile, tonight as I write this, a collaborator chose not to tweet this image :
She was able to tweet it, but when she logged in with another account and looked at it, she saw the warning I embedded on the bottom left of the image in her tweet. She did not want potential customers of that company to see that warning, so she deleted it and tweeted a different image instead.
Why Businesses Need to Be Careful on Twitter
Remember when we talked about getting suspended, and ghost banning and shadow banning at the beginning of this post? Businesses and individuals who run afoul of Twitter’s rules or censors can find all their hard work down the drain. The rules are fairly easy to comply with, but the new censorship is not.
Censorship, banning, and shadow banning. Twitter is under fire for suspending accounts that share content it doesn’t like and announcing that it plans to censor what is shared. Concerned free speech advocates point to this form encouraging users to report tweets that are “in disagreement” with their opinions:
The key takeaway for businesses using Twitter is to avoid discussing or sharing anything political or religious in nature unless you are willing to risk having your account shut down. It is typically a good business practice to do this anyway.
“Shadow banning” refers to the practice of allowing users to think they are posting, when in fact what they share cannot be seen by anyone but themselves. Periodically sign into Twitter from another account to make sure you aren’t wasting your time posting.
Twitter share counts. Twitter removed share counts which removed social proof and dropped traffic and retweets. According to SmallBusinessTrends:
Michael Ducker, Twitter’s Group Project Manager, explains the reasoning behind the controversial removal of Twitter share counts on the Twitter blog, saying, ‘The count was built in a time where the only button on the Web was from Twitter. Today, it’s most commonly placed among a number of other share buttons, few of which have counts.'”
Anyone familiar with social media sharing buttons knows that all the major social platforms provide share counts–except now Twitter–so where he got this idea is unknown. Influencers who most heavily invested in their Twitter followings are losing traffic and influence because of this change.
Twitter advertising revenue. Just as influencers were making progress at convincing businesses to test Twitter ads, Twitter removing share counts took away the social proof we needed to convince businesses they were worth spending money on.
Twitter’s ad revenue is gradually increasing (as shown below), but not at the rate it had been predicted. The only motivation I’ve heard anyone come up with regarding the removal of share counts was to generate revenue by forcing those who still wanted them to pay Twitter’s recently acquired partner Gnip for this information.
Perhaps the decision makers at Twitter overestimated the number of third-party tools that could afford to pay, or it wished to favor big brands over small businesses with more limited budgets.
Twitter Trends for 2016
Brandwatch provided these comprehensive “Twitter Trends 2016: 8 Changes to Expect from Twitter” including:
- A focus on appealing to the mainstream using likes and moments.
- Accessibility improvements in hopes of making Twitter easier for new users to understand.
- Algorithmic changes that “curate” users’ timelines (a change which most Twitter power users greatly oppose).
- Increasing in-app retention.
- Selling through Twitter using “buy now” buttons (available only in the U.S. to select brands thus far).
- Raising the character limit (another unpopular change discussed more fully above).
- More users on Twitter’s live-streaming video app Periscope. (It has amassed 10 million users in four months.)
- The growth of Vine. (Vine now has 100 million monthly active users and may provide an avenue for advertisers to work with influencers.)
Why Businesses Should Use Twitter
Even with the challenges detailed in this post, Twitter still provides a huge opportunity for businesses; there are more comprehensive tools available today than ever before.
Instead of using many tools, there are Twitter solutions such as Staged that combine the function of many tools into one platform able to manage Twitter following and unfollowing, responses, retweets, automate repeated sharing of evergreen content, and pulling in viral videos and putting them on a “stage” surrounded by ads of your choice–all in one solution.
Look at these statistics from “Why Twitter is Absolutely Vital to Your Business” by Staged:
Opportunity still abounds on Twitter; however, as in anything else in business, diversity is critical. It is easy to get excited using your favorite social network and neglect others you do not find as appealing. Resist that temptation and spread your time and influence across many networks.
Twitter is still the favorite of many influencers and businesses, and I have built more influence there than anywhere else. Decisions the company is making are having a negative impact on users who have no input or control over the outcome.
My best advice is to reap the harvest while we still can. Get in early on any social network because that is when maximum benefits and ROI exist. Over time, competition increases and ROI declines. Eventually, it will be time to find the next Twitter–but not yet.