Last year when one of my brands asked a question about our Twitter strategy, I spit my coffee out onto the table. I tried to hold back laughing, but I saw that the question was posed earnestly, and so I had to explain that the value brought from a luxury brand with very few things to say bothering to tweet was zero, if not a distraction from other platforms.
Yesterday I was invited to Twitter, and it was a chance to learn a bit more about the role that Twitter plays in the world today. It changed my overall opinion, and I found it important enough to share with you.
What is Twitter today?
Twitter has always wanted to be the public conversation layer of the Internet. For a time after their founding 13 years ago it seemed inevitable that Twitter would be one of the big social media networks. The little blue icons of Facebook and Linkedin were always accompanied by the little blue bird.
Yet the times were not nice to Twitter. Facebook’s stranglehold on attention after gobbling up Instagram opened a chasm between the networks. Twitter suffered from a proliferation of bots on the platform that degraded the user experience. People followed to be followed.
But even though marketing dollars followed eyes to other platforms, Twitter never went away. On the contrary, Twitter righted the ship and monthly active users have been growing over the past two years, and is now up to 330 million. Twitter is strong around the world, with a particularly strong penetration in places like India and Japan. Monetization is also going well. They recently topped $3 billion in yearly revenue.
Despite the fact that Facebook rakes in as much profit in a quarter as Twitter brings in revenue in a year, Twitter is still the place where things happen in live – and when shit goes down, Twitter is what people go to first.
The Internet wouldn’t be the same without Twitter
People forget that Twitter was revolutionary. When it first emerged, the idea of tweeting was so simple that it was shocking. Send a text message not to one person, but to the world. For people who had things to say but didn’t want to set up a bulky blog and everything that that required back in 2008/2009, Twitter was perfect.
They also invented the idea of the hashtag, which has become nothing short of a worldwide cultural phenomenon. The retweet function became arguably the fastest way for content to go viral. Trending topics reinforced viral content.
Who should use Twitter today?
Even if Trump’s tweets might get the most media attention, Twitter is primarily an entertainment platform in the US. The most followed accounts are people like Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, and Justin Bieber. Twitter has partnerships with major sports networks in the US to enable sharing for highlights across a large audience. Because of the short formats, content can often circumvent copyright laws.
Businesses use Twitter in many different ways. The biggest two are corporate brand building and customer service. For a company with a lot of news, Twitter is a great outlet to talk about their initiatives – particularly social causes. Since the updates are short and punchy, businesses can convey their news, from key hires to events to product innovations without looking pretentious. Businesses can then paint a more complete picture of their activities over time.
But a real digital differentiator is using Twitter for customer service. People like to complain on Twitter – a lot. Businesses that can leverage a solid community management/customer service angle can turn bad experiences into solid gold. A lot of sympathy mixed with a touch of humor can go a long way into getting people to have a positive brand experience. It is difficult to do this on an international level, but having local accounts for each country can become a way to publicly show how well your company cares about people’s complaints.
So Twitter managed to change my mind. It still remains a valuable asset for certain types of digital strategies. I might even just tweet that!