There have been an awful lot of people talking about Twitter during the last week and, frankly, I’m not sure I like it. Since the world of Internet marketing, and more specifically the country of Search Engine and Social Media Optimization, is all about “hot topics”, I get the feeling that this particular topic is snowballing out of control, and I’m saying my piece now and getting out of the way before it causes an avalanche.
Basically, a lot of people are insisting that Twitter is a great tool for social media marketing, can be used to launch a viral campaign, and may even replace Google for searches one day. Well, I agree with the first statement – Twitter is very useful for networking with friends and family, and keeping in touch, but how far does it go to reach a target market of potential customers and clients?
Here are a few points on which I’d like to offer my opinion:
- Twitter is a great tool for marketing because there are so many people using it now. The idea behind this one makes about as much sense to me as saying “Times Square in NYC is a great place to witness to non-Christians”. Sure, the volume of possible targets has increased and, statistically speaking, this should mean that more will convert, but other factors are at work. In the Times Square scenario, more people means more eyes watching each other, more voices voicing their own opinions, and as unlikely as someone is to read religious material handed to them by a stranger, or listen to someone talking about the end of time, the thought of others seeing them reading the material can only be a discouragement, and the more people around them, the more likely they are to toss it in the garbage, or not hear. For the Twitter analogy, the more people there are to tweet to, the more people there will be tweeting, and your efforts to launch a viral message for users to retweet may be lost in the shuffle.
- Searching Twitter is more likely to yield conversions for a business using it, because the results are recommendations from friends and family members, and people are more likely to listen to their family members. I’m not sure to begin with this one, but it would seem to me that anyone who’s opinion I would value higher than a generic review (of a product, for example) is someone I know well enough that I don’t have to use Twitter to get that opinion. I’ll call them, email them, IM them, etc. There are so many ways to communicate with others online, Twitter is actually the last way I plan to connect with people. Given, many people post to Twitter more times a day than should be considered healthy, but this only goes against the effort of putting ideas out there. How many people really log onto Twitter in a given day just to see what others are saying, without the need to say something for their own benefit? It seems to me that for every person reading what’s been tweeted, there are just as many, if not more, tweeting themselves, which is just more information among which yours can be lost.
- Twitter allows users to follow other users, so it will be easier to target users. I disagree. I have 56 people following me on Twitter, many of whom I don’t even know. In a given day I might check Twitter once, and during that time, I generally check my direct messages, replies to my own tweets, and I might look at what one of the 27 people I follow are saying. I rarely reply, unless it is a reply to me or directed at me, and I almost never click links unless I know what it is already. On the other side, I rarely see responses, and out of the hundred or so tweets I’ve made (specifically to promote my own projects) I’ve received a total of 9 responses, and only one retweet. Maybe I’m one of the few who’s user habits on Twitter are comparable to an anti-socialite at the greatest party of the century, but what do most users really use Twitter for? I have an inkling that users either have far more followers than people they follow, and therefore they are likely on Twitter to post and not so much to read, or they follow so many people that they miss over half of the messages posted daily. So what would this mean for retweets? It means even the catchiest, most important message you could post may be missed or disregarded. How “a message thrown around on Twitter” is better for Internet marketing than “a search result that specifically targets the exact phrase for which a user searches” is beyond me.
What it comes down to for me is this: Twitter can be used for effective marketing, but not any better than Myspace, Facebook, Flickr!, Digg, Sphinn, or any other social media site with a lot of users. A lot of Twitter users post from their cell phones, or while at work, or on the run, so they don’t have time to read others’ posts – only to post themselves. The majority of replies on Twitter are between friends, and retweets are usually a courtesy to those you know beyond Twitter. A successful viral marketing campaign on Twitter is possible, just like it’s possible for me to become a movie star, so is it really worth the time and effort to utilize Twitter for SMO in your Internet marketing firm? If you’re lucky, I guess.
The aforementioned in no way represents the opinions of everyone at Reciprocal Consulting, it is simply my own. These are just my personal thoughts on the “hot topic” of the week in the Internet marketing world.