Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matters but Twitterers

If you saw the headlines yesterday, you might be excused for thinking Twitter was in decline:  “Twitter's growth slows dramatically,” “Twitter popularity declines, growth slows down,” and “Is Twitter 'Traffic' Tanking?

Twitter was the story of 2009, growing from less than 5 million monthly users to almost 30 million in the course of six months.  People joined, brands rushed in, and words like “Tweet” entered our common vocabulary. 

It was a heady year for Twitter, but has it had its day in the sun?  What do the headlines mean?

First of all, Twitter isn’t going anywhere any time soon.  It’s become ingrained into consumers’ and companies’ communication channels.   And it’s just getting started—under development are more tools to help enterprise customers manage and learn from the billions of tweets produced globally.

Secondly, who said Twitter is for everyone?  It serves a great purpose for many people, but it lacks Facebook’s wide range of applications (and thus wide appeal).  It also lacks a great deal of the noise that many find makes Facebook a less than ideal business networking, news, and sharing environment. 

Lastly (and most importantly) is what the headlines are not conveying.  Yes, overall growth is slowing—how could it not after posting 1,000%-plus growth in such a short time?--but the key for marketers is not the number of Twitterers but the habits, Technographics and psychographics of Twitterers.  As Sean Corcoran and Josh Bernoff demonstrated in their December 2009 report, “Who Flocks To Twitter?,” Twitters are the connected of the connected, overindexing at all Social Media habits.  For example, Twitterers are three times more likely to be Creators (people who create and share content via blog posts and YouTube) as the general US population. 

Twitter’s growth may slow (or perhaps it will see an @oprah-like bounce now that @billgates has joined and is generating PR), but its value to those who Twitter and to marketers is not in question into the very foreseeable future.

Comments

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

Augie, Agree it's about the people, not the tools like Twitter and FB. (And no, Twitter is not for everyone.)

What matters more to marketers are who's on Twitter and SM, lurking, consuming, engaging or more. So the hype may be fading, but I don't think Twitter or SM is going anywhere.

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

Thanks Davina. You stated that very succinctly!

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

I agree that Twitter is here to stay for awhile. Having a resource that connects like minded people all over the world opens the potential for great things to happen. We haven't even begun to see the possibilities.

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

Interesting to note that twitterers are 3x's more likely to be creators/producers. Twitter also happens to be an excellent way to quickly promote your produced/created content and pick-up viewers/readers almost instantaneously. Coincidence?

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

Matthew, it's not a coincidence at all (but that was rhetorical, wasn't it?) Thanks for the dialog.

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

I think that we are still on the upswing of Twitters full potential. I still have a ton of people I work with that have not seen the glory, that is Twitter. The numbers should start to swing upward, especially with the trend of social media marketing about to boom.

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

Augie, for those of us who can't shell out $500 to buy the report, can you tell use how the supporting data was gathered to indicate that "Twitterers are three times more likely to be Creators"? Was this in a survey? Analysis of Forrester's customers? Since Forrester is generally only interested in enterprise users, I always wonder if this kind of data is a reflection of Twitter users at large (small businesses, individuals, non-profits, etc.), or just Forrester's customer base. Thanks.

@CarriBugbee

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

Carrie,

Here is the methodology info from the survey:

Forrester conducted the North American Technographics® Interactive Marketing Online Survey, Q2 2009 (US) fielded in May 2009 of 4,766 US individuals ages 18 to 88. For results based on a randomly chosen sample of this size (N = 4,766), there is 95% confidence that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 1.4% of what they would be if the entire population of US online individuals ages 18 and older had been surveyed.

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

The more I study Twitter through applications such as Tweetdeck, it is making a place for itself as a news headline service for social media. I agree it is not going away, but is becoming an excellent one dimensional web tool. Not only to broadcast, but to intercept comments that are good and bad. NBote to self, create a position for a Twitter monitorer uring the next hiring blitz.

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

There are three core social media/networking tools I use, they are: blogs, Linkedin and Twitter.

Twitter is by far, the most effective way to make an initial social connection with a business professional or brand. Obviously, the person/brand has to be on Twitter.

Some Twitter pros:

1) It is very easy to connect because all one does is follow that person on Twitter. Following someone is the first potential step in making a connection, starting a conversation and a relationship. E.g.: I've made direct connections to people through Twitter. I initially connected with Josh Bernoff, the co-author of Groundswell using Twitter.

2) It can cost effectively and exponentially increase your reach. A retweet(RT) can reach thousands of people. E.g.: one tweet I sent out to my followers (1600 at the time) was retweeted and ended up reaching 170,000 twitter accounts. Compare this to a magazine ad in terms of reach and cost.

Some Twitter cons:
1) Twitter is not immune from questionable or ill advised practices. People and companies should ensure they are sharing meaningful information about the industry they serve, the problems they solve and think of their followers first. It's ok to inform and promote your achievements, new products etc. Just make sure things are balanced.

2) "List streams" and "contests". Follow Fridays and contests like the shorty awards help build awareness and legitimize twitter to some extent. However I have some concerns:

Follow Fridays: To recommend I follow a bunch of names means absolutely nothing to me. I want to know why I should follow this person not just who.

Contests: I question the value of contests like the shorty awards where people can win by volume of votes. Since the "ballot" or nomination is in the form of a tweet, I end up seeing multiple tweets asking for ppl to vote and then more tweets thanking those ppl for voting! Then I see tweets congratulating ppl for where you end up being ranked. This is twitter madness (or "noise") in my opinion. My reaction to this: "unfollow"!

In summary, Twitter can and is a great way to connect with people, build awareness for you and/or your company and extend your reach. Balance your needs with those of the people that follow you. Don't abuse the relationships you are starting and developing through over promotion and one sided self serving behaviour.

re: Is Twitter Fading? For Marketers It’s not Twitter that Matt

Chris,

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I share many of your concerns.

My feeling on Follow Fridays (#FF) is that it can be useful if people offer introductions and explanations and not just a laundry list of twitter handles. (For example, "Great news sources" or "Social Media Deep Thinkers.")

And I agree with you about the contests where people win or are entered merely by retweeting. Those can become spammy very quickly. A better idea is to have people tweet something of value--such as why they like the product--along with a hashtag.

Marketers and users are still getting the hang of Twitter and it can be very different things for different people. That's both the joy and the challenge of Twitter as a communications channel!