Are Marketers Losing Interest in Twitter?

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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