Twitter: A Marketing Has-Been That Never Was

Last Updated Apr 28, 2011 6:44 PM EDT

They say that Twitter is the fastest-growing social media site. They say that getting people to follow your tweets is essential for small business Internet marketing. They say that Twitter is a great way to generate sales. They say a lot of things about Twitter, and many of them are flat wrong. These and other Twitter myths confuse, frustrate, and infuriate the small business owners who buy into them.

Here are some facts:

Twitter is not that fast-growing, may never have been all that fast-growing and is, in fact, slipping. The problem is that Twitter was never intended to be a marketing platform, so when people come to it expecting that, they're disappointed and leave -- or, more accurately, simply abandon their inactive Twitter accounts -- in droves. If you want to market with a medium on the upswing, Twitter isn't it.

More followers doesn't mean much. It's all about the quality. Many, many Twitter users follow other Twitter feeds only in hopes that their own feeds will get followed. They aren't reading the other feeds, so how can those feeds accomplish anything? The answer, of course, is that they can't. Quality followers are those who are active on Twitter as both feeders and readers, and who fit your target demographic. Otherwise, they're worthless.

You can't sell at all on Twitter, at least not directly, since there's no e-commerce function. At best, Twitter is a personal social communications tool that can, with luck and effort, be bent to business purposes. What Twitter does best is deepen relationships with existing customers. That's not exactly selling, although it certainly can translate into better sales at some point in the future.

Twitter does have its uses. One example is consumer products companies that can invest the time and money to tap it for market research and relationship-building. But it's not much good for business-to-business, or for companies that don't already have substantial numbers of customers and the resources to market through other media to get more. The majority of small business owners can confidently relegate it to second-tier status as a marketing tool. (Disclosure: I'll tweet about this post since, in my opinion, Web-based information services represent one of the business types most able to employ Twitter beneficially.)

Mark Henricks has reported on business, technology and other topics for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications long enough to lay somewhat legitimate claim to being The Article Authority. Follow him on Twitter @bizmyths.

Image courtesy of Flickr user trekkyandy, CC2.0
  • Mark Henricks

    Mark Henricks' reporting on business and other topics has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Inc., Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications. He lives in Austin, Texas, where myth looms as large as it does anywhere.

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