Are Marketers Losing Interest in Twitter?

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Remember when every blog post and article in AdAge and Mashable was about how great Twitter was for marketers? That seems so 2009, doesn’t it? When was the last time you read a big story on how Twitter is grabbing marketers’ attentions and clients’ interests?

It’s just not happening much anymore. And, as we all know, if something is hot in marketing, we’ll talk it up endlessly, analyze its benefits and potential downfalls and examine every little nook and cranny of what makes something the current/next big thing.

And yet none of that is happening around Twitter. At least not on the scale it was six months ago, and certainly not on the scale of Facebook.

Ahh, Facebook. Maybe that is what it is. The 800-million-pound Gorilla has taken over our collective interests. After years of trying, Facebook finally seems to be getting its act together in terms of having a viable marketing and advertising platform for brands.

Meanwhile, according to an excellent New York magazine article, “Will Twitter Become Profitable?,” the collective wisdom and leadership of the Fail Whale are still trying to figure out whether it is wise to show new users a blank screen when they sign up or flood them with the fire hose that is a normal Twitter stream.

Decisions, decisions.

The problem, for Twitter, is two-fold:

  • It is still relatively young. (Though, if we’re being honest, it’s now a 5-year-old company valued — perhaps optimistically — at $10 billion. That’s not exactly young in Silicon Valley terms.)
  • It has been riddled with the great-problem-to-have syndrome that has afflicted so many fast-rising companies: its rapid growth has hampered progress in other key areas. Namely, making money and developing a viable advertising platform for businesses to make money based off its success.

The second problem is the more fundamental issue. If Twitter is to continue growing and capturing marketers’ attention, it must find a way to develop a feasible advertising platform that meets both consumers’ and marketers’ interests and needs. That’s not easy. It now seems as though Twitter will either figure this out for itself or the market will do so for it, through user attrition and continuing declines in brand and marketer interest.

Already, we are seeing a bit of the latter taking place. As Business Insider pointed out recently, Twitter’s active user base ranges between 50 million and 100 million worldwide, despite the company once claiming it was approaching 200 million active users.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo summed up the company’s problems as it pertains to being a viable marketing platform for brands when he told New York magazine that “There’s this big gap, no doubt about it, between awareness of Twitter and engaged on Twitter.” While a huge number of people know of Twitter, the company struggles to maintain their interest after that initial “Hey, I’m trying out Twitter. What should I say” tweet from a new user. And that means the company struggles to demonstrate to marketers why they should pour their clients money further into its nascent ad platform.

No doubt, there are numerous case studies (Dell, JetBlue, etc.) that demonstrate sales and marketing success from Twitter. And, of course, Twitter remains one of the best real-time news dissemination and crisis-response platforms for brands.

But for every success, I get the sense more and more brands are becoming disillusioned by a platform that requires a significant chunk of time and resources to populate but has yet to return equitable marketing benefits to businesses.

For Twitter to meet brands’ and marketers’ ultimate dreams of being a viable marketing platform, the time is now for it to mature. Marketers have been patiently waiting, but how much longer can we hold out hope before Facebook truly dominates our digital marketing strategies?

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  • Bikijohn

    This was an interesting article for me to read as I recently started a blog- (http://myfashionslashlife.wordpress.com) and as I recently got on the ‘social media train’ to market and promote it; I have been wondering whether to activate a Twitter acount for my blog.  For me, choosing Facebook as a marcomms tool was a no-brainer, but although I am aware of Twitter, for whatever reason, I am still debating whether to get out on its ‘stop’.

  • http://twitter.com/John_Trader1 John Trader

    Enjoyed reading the post Keith and I agree that without a viable ad campaign strategy, Twitter doesn’t hold as much weight as other platforms like FB and LinkedIn. If they don’t get their act together soon and come up with a different strategy or change their approach, they could get swept into the social media dustbin.

    • http://prbreakfastclub.com/ Keith Trivitt

      Thanks for the feedback, John. I was particularly struck by a stat I read today about Yahoo, with its 700M monthly previews, which far outnumber that of Twitter. It made me again realize that a struggling online ad portal (Yahoo) still has far mote business going for it than supposedly the next big thing (Twitter)

  • Madison112

    I think that people are just uncomfortable with using Twitter because, as you mentioned, they don’t know what to say. I personally use Twitter as more of a way to observe and read as opposed to posting, but I think people feel pressure to post whitty or interesting things and this pressure may drive them away. Do you think that taking this pressure away from users would increase their numbers, or simply ruin the point of Twitter?

  • Sara

    Keith,
    This is a good article. I agree that people are jsut using Twitter to use it. I, myself, has a Twitter account but do not actively use it. I get on it almost everyday and read the tweets that my friends post, but I hardly ever make my own tweets just because of how you started it above, they do not know what to say. Personally, I would rather post my tweet to Facebook because I can get feedback, I can hear what my friends have to say about what I said. They can interact with my post and that is something I like a lot better about Twitter. I almost feel that Twitter and Facebook will evenutally merge, since you can already link your tweets to Facebook and that Facebook will become dominant.

  • Kristine Marie

    I found myself somewhat conflicted with this article. I do agree that there is that gap of people who do not know about Twitter or the possibilities that it can offer. However, I also believe that Facebook and Twitter should not necessarily be lumped together. Twitter is meant to capture your attention. If you can’t tell the story in 140 characters, direct your followers somewhere else where they can learn more. Twitter gets you onto other websites, whether it be Twitpic, YouTube or any other site you want to shortcode. Facebook, however, provides all the information in a one-stop shop. Lengthy articles, pictures and videos are all embedded right on the page. So, to compare the two and say Twitter is falling behind may not be fair. Twitter has to be realized for what it is and not put up against the 800-million-pound Gorilla that is Facebook.

    • http://prbreakfastclub.com/ Keith Trivitt

      Thanks for this perspective, Kristine. I agree with you in principle; however, the issue to me is that Twitter doesn’t seem to be want to bill itself as being purely a conduit between links and information. If it were just that, then it would really be no more than MediaGazer, which provides exactly that.

      As it stands now (and this is where I think Twitter is confusing/frustrating brands and marketers), the company, IMO, wants to be all things to all brands and it wants to provide that full marketing channel that Facebook has successfully built. But, as you rightly point out, Twitter really isn’t set up to do that, which is causing issues, particularly as the company expands its nascent ad platform. 

  • JessiEllerbe

    It astounds me that Twitter is already losing hype. For someone that is new in the PR world, I thought that it was still going quite strong. However, I definitely see the point of this post. Twitter does lack any sort of advertising that could benefit companies that choose to use it. Even though I personally use Twitter more on a day-to-day basis than Facebook, I’m not sure any social media site will ever hold a candle to the boom that Facebook has created. That being said, I think Twitter has a lot of potential. The unfortunate thing is that Twitter is a hot and cold site; people either completely adore it and find it extremely useful, or the despise it and find it completely pointless.

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