Is Twitter's Marketing Power Going to Waste?

The Internet is buzzing with discussion on exactly how the social-network site Twitter can turn its business into profit. With a simple purpose—short message sharing—and millions of users you'd think it'd be easy. But some new research by Webtrends has cast doubt on the idea that advertising could be the way to Twitter will do it.

The research was designed to probe how businesses in Europe exploit social networking sites for marketing, and the results show that Twitter was used as a marketing tool by just 2% of the companies surveyed. Viral marketing, blogs and podcasts were all used by over 5% of the group. Online advertising was used by 35%. The most popular form of marketing is the oldest technique among all the options—direct email, with over 45% adoption.

Essentially WebTrends research has found that though Twitter is a free and fast tool ripe for exploitation by marketing departments, it's just not being utilized (most Twitter users are probably happy to hear this). The reasons why aren't probed by the research, but they're pretty easy to guess: Twitter is very new, and people aren't at all sure how to best exploit it. It's far simpler to stick with what you know.

Twitter has no specific tools in place to let you use it as a marketing tool yet—there are no advertising panels for sale for example. But it's perfectly possible to use it in its current mode—it just requires a more a hands-on approach, attracting followers to your Twitter feed, monitoring interactions, engaging in conversations and being careful not to bombard them with information. It's also arguable that Twitter usage is less in Europe than in the U.S. for regional reasons, with U.S. companies happier to swiftly embrace new technology.

The WebTrends data remains fascinating, though, running head-to-head with the research performed by Facebook recently implying Twitter-like stream feeds are two to four times more effective than other online methods of communication for getting your message to a larger audience. 

For the time being it seems the potential advantages of Twitter are simply being outweighed by the inertia of older advertising methods: your inbox will be stuffed with more advertising junk mail for a while before your Twitter feed is. It's also something for Twitter to take note of—if it is to earn cash from its business, direct advertising may not be the best way to do it. On the other hand, luring marketers into a new technology before it's fully ripened can be just as problematic, as the current state of Second Life clearly illustrates.

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9 Comments

  • Jennifer Litz

    Twitter is very new? Twitter has been around for a couple of years! The reason it hasn't been utilized by businesses is twofold: 1. It takes time to actually develop a rapport with people on there, and to target people in your specific market (assuming a B2C scenario) takes more time than CEOs and marketing people are willing to put in most of the time. 2. It's authentic--you can't get away with just pitching slogans and setting the agenda via regular marketing messages on Twitter. You have to be authentic, transparent, and interactive. Many businesses are uncomfortable with that. There's a right way to do it, though ...

  • Alexandra Mecoli

    Twitter is new to a lot of businesses, it is very useful to interact with other people in the industry as well as getting answers right away. Whatever you need, ask it on twitter! someone in your network will know the answer and if not, they will point you in the right direction. I think is a great business tool and I recommend it to all my clients. If you are new to twitter and would like to get started you can contact me at www.amecoli.com or if you just want to read more about it, learn some tips and tricks then I recommend any of these blog posts http://blog.amecoli.com/catego... connect with me at www.twitter.com/amecoli

  • Leila Oliva

    It will be interesting to follow-up one year from now how this research. It is a pity that I was not interviewed: if they´ve asked they will learn that email adverts go directly to trash. On the other hand, I am following which companies are already in Twitter, such as Google, Microsoft, Dell, Kodak, Roche, BestBuy to name a few. I am learning a lot about innovative ways to approach consumers.

  • Heder Santana

    Really, people are still figuring out what Twitter really is.

    But the real goal for companies is to provide really useful, interesting information about its products to make users want to follow them. Lots of people want to receive information in a different way of that provided by annoying emails.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Christopher. I think Khurram would disagree with you... Twitter is so very new that people haven't yet worked out exactly what it's for. To dismiss it already is to dismiss a star on the ascendant.

  • NoahRobischon

    @christopher You may be over Twitter, but most advertisers and marketers are still just waking up to the service. Reminds me of Second Life...

  • khurram zaveri

    Twitter is like a breath of fresh air on the Social Media scene. I have been on it for just a few weeks now and I have met several interesting people. It is a platform to network with people you would like to meet in real life. Check me out!!

    http://twitter.com/spryka

  • Christopher Ott

    Snooze... not another article on Twitter. I expect better from Fast Company.

    Either go on Twitter and chat about your company or don't.

    Remember, the more people that use Twitter the less effective the medium becomes.

    Already Twitter is awash with millions of people peddling their wares. I give it 6 months before Twitter either strictly regulates your marketing abilities(it's already begun) or they start losing users to a more controlled environment like Yammer.

    Anyone remember MySpace?

    Twitter is a fun service and for now, it has its uses; don't need to read any more articles on Twitter though.