Nick Hayes: Everyone uses Twitter for Marketing … but is anyone even claiming it helps Sales?

Nick HayesRecently we read a blog advocating the use of Twitter for small businesses. It said, “Is money the only gauge of your business’s success? Think about the value you can add to your brand by maintaining a rapport with your audience (increasing your brand awareness). Consider the use of Twitter as an exercise in public relations and a great opportunity to help out and socialise with other businesses.

This particular advocate suggested ignoring direct ROI and thinking of Twitter as a PR and socializing tool. Of course, PR and socializing can result in securing business, but it’s not the direct connection to your customer-base that many Twitter advocates have claimed. And it certainly doesn’t justify the effort many commercial organisations are putting into Twitter. As that blog claimed, ‘maintaining a rapport with your audience’ is all well and good – so long as you’re aware that that ‘audience’ isn’t an audience of buyers.

Much of the hype around Twitter serves to confuse its real business use. Many surveys these days show Twitter to be increasingly important to businesses, repeatedly referring to it as a ‘business and marketing tool’. Let’s temporarily put to one side the use of Twitter as a marketing tool – almost every organization these days uses Twitter as an additional outreach channel – but what else is it being used for? Is it generating new business? Here’s a snapshot from the findings of CNBC’s recently issued ‘Europe’s Mobile Elite 2012’ survey.

“The survey also showed that the use of Twitter as a business and marketing tool has seen a rapid increase amongst users, almost doubling in use to 61% up from 31% a year ago. The perceived value of social media as a useful business tool over the last three years has fuelled the acceptability of social media in the work place, with 75% of users accessing sites at work v 32% in 2010 and 55% in 2011.

 This has been a significant year of implementation for social media in business. Back in 2011, 61% of European executives felt that social networking would change the way we do business in the future, and this has been realised in 2012 with 69% agreeing that ‘it’s important for businesses to integrate social media into marketing and business plans’.

Over four in ten claim that their company has a social media strategy in place, and in the last 12 months, over a third (36%) of all European executives claim to have used social media to interact with clients and customers, three in ten have used social media to build brand presence among the social network community, 21% have used social media to increase company website traffic and a quarter have used it to help build corporate reputation.

 Twitter’s use as a business and marketing tool continues to increase among European executives, with 80% of tweeters claiming that they use it to ‘follow the insights of senior business figures or investment strategists’, increasing from 31% in 2010, and 61% last year.

Each of the social networking sites deliver unique strengths, with Facebook scoring highest among users for ‘mainly use for leisure’ (73%), LinkedIn for ‘useful business tool’ (71%), ‘useful recruitment tool’ (56%), ‘respected brand’ (50%) and ‘willing to pay to be a member’ (18%). Twitter scores highest for ‘useful marketing tool’ (44%) and ‘trustworthy’ (38%).”

Aside from a marketing outreach channel, and for a lower number of organizations a customer listening post, we’re still not seeing any evidence of prospects and customers using Twitter to gain insight or knowledge in advance of purchasing or adoption decisions. And believe us we’re looking for it!

Of course some Twitter users may in a solo capacity be advising end-user buying organizations. That may clearly occur and the possibility can’t be dismissed. But it positions Twitter at best as potentially a useful, low-cost and valid channel for disseminating messaging – it certainly doesn’t come close to making it a prime channel for real world influence. So why are heads of marketing channeling such faith and increased budgets into Twitter campaigns? It can only be termed an experiment and Twitter is clearly enjoying an extended honeymoon.

 

This is the third of three instalments of Nick Hayes’ latest White Paper, ‘The Hype To Uncover Social Media Influencers – should you care?’