5 Benefits of Twitter for Business (and 5 reasons it’s a waste of your time)

If the online business community was an angry mob, you’d hear it shouting things like:

“Social Media is everything!”

“Connect with your customers!”

“Content is King!”

…and various other catchphrases. But, despite the groundswell of support for social media marketing (and a sudden attention to how many twitter followers everyone has), it’s tough to find many success stories, which begs the question: Are social media outlets (like Twitter) actually productive ways to market your business?

There are certainly benefits to being active on Twitter, especially for large businesses. Here are five:

1. If you already have a big, tech-savvy customer base, Twitter can help you engage them

The keyword in that sentence was techsavvy (or two hyphenated keywords, give me a break). The most important question to ask yourself is: “Are my customers on twitter?” For many businesses, the answer is a vehement no, but they continue to soldier on in the hopes of connecting with an audience that, in fact, doesn’t exist.

But if your customers are frequent Twitter users, this is yet another way to reach them. Note: engaging customers on Twitter rarely has a direct return, and you should know that before engaging in a social media campaign. That’s not to say you can’t make money off of Twitter, but many businesses are having more luck by offering Twitter support lines, or helping their customers via twitter, thus providing somewhat indirect returns.

2. Consumer-oriented products get a real boost

Companies like Forever 21 promote their sales to thousands of active followers on Facebook and Twitter, which can be a great way to drive traffic. EA uses twitter to provide frequent updates on game development – which keeps highly-engaged customers feeling involved in the development process.

3. Improve your online reputation

If you’re working with a new business, or a business that’s just starting to build its social reputation, Twitter can be an easy way to give your company some clout. Twitter rep is measured in followers – the more you have, the more important you seem to people, but followers are not hard to gain. If you’re looking for a reputation boost, don’t be afraid to follow plenty of accounts related to your business – you’ll be likely to get plenty of reciprocal follows.

4. Get your web articles linked quicker

According to research done by the SEO firm Moz, posting a new blog post or article to Twitter can make it show up in Google search results considerably faster than it normally would.

5. Develop valuable B2B partnerships

Many businesspeople aren’t on Twitter – but the ones who are can be particularly influential online. You might be surprised by how many valuable connections you can make just by following people in your industry and striking up a conversation. All it takes is for you to get in touch with one person of real influence for your efforts to have paid off.

 

And now for the bad…

That all being said, there’s a catch – most businesses don’t make any money on Twitter at all, mostly because they’re using it for all the wrong reasons. Social media isn’t a magic, unquantifiable marketing tool, and there’s no inherit value in just engaging your customers. In my opinion, few businesses understand this. In fact, I’ve seen business after business struggle with social media marketing, only to come to the conclusion that they just need to try harder. Sometimes, all you’re doing on Twitter is wasting your time. Here are five reasons twitter isn’t always worth your while:

1. If you’re not consumer-oriented, you’re in a tight spot

Depending on your business sector, your customers may not be on Twitter (or any social network for that matter). This is a surprisingly common problem, and it’s amazingly under diagnosed. If you are running a B2B-oriented company, your customers are likely not on Twitter. If they are on Twitter, I’d suspect that they spend very little time there, and aren’t particularly likely to make purchasing decisions based on what they’re seeing in their feed. Think about it: how many times have you decided to make a business purchase based off of anything you saw on Twitter?

2. It’s extremely hard to gain visibility

Many of the people you engage on Twitter will be following 300 people or more, each of whom will tweet possibly once a day or more: making your tweet stand out can be nearly impossible. Including images and focusing on messages that are likely to be retweeted will help, but in reality, the only people really gaining traction in the retweet department are those in the 2500+ follower area (which will be hard to attain if you’re a very small business).

3. Good tweets are harder to write than they’re worth

A really, really fantastic tweet for a small business might garner 15 retweets. If each retweet went out to an average of 300 followers, that means that you were able to engage 4500 people with a single message – which is brilliant! Except, you probably had to take a few minutes to format it, and likely had written quite a few failed tweets before experiencing your big success. And, even with your big success, you only manage to engage 4500 people with a short text message, and most of those users will never see the message between all of the other tweets on their feed. If you want to reach people, you may be better off just buying some internet banner ads, sometimes as cheap as $2 for every 1k users reached. For $9, you could reach 4,500 people in the niche you’re looking for, and you’ll be hitting them with an eye-catching ad.

4. You can get bogged down in all the chatter

This is one I’m definitely guilty of. I really like to hear from other people about how their business is doing and what they’re up to, and it can be easy to get sucked into spending 15-20 minutes every day under the guise of “connecting with potential customers.” Connecting can be great, but evaluate yourself. If you’re not making money off of these connections, then save your twitter time for after work.

5. You’ve only got 140 characters!

It might be obvious, but it’s really, really hard to make an actually compelling marketing message happen in 140 characters or less. Although you might be able to get customers interested in a campaign, for many products that require in-depth understanding (like B2B offerings), 140 characters might just not cut it.

The bottom line for all of this:

Don’t use Twitter just because everyone else is. Evaluate your business honestly – do you actually stand to benefit from social marketing, or do you just feel like you’re behind? Measure your Twitter ROI against your other marketing methods. If it’s winning, keep doing it. If not, stop wasting your time!

Casey Ark

Casey Ark is the CEO of Plato Web Design, a custom web design and marketing agency. His writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Newsday, The Tampa Bay Times, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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