What is Twitter?
Twitter is a microblogging platform where users can post web links images and messages in under 140 characters. Founded in 2006, Twitter has 313 million monthly active users and has quickly become home to media, celebrities and brands.
Twitter is accessed through an account, which is referred to as a ‘handle’ and consists of an @ symbol and your username. Through this account, you can interact with other users on the platform by ‘mentioning’ their username, ‘retweeting’ (i.e. sharing) or replying to their content. Since there is only one type of account, Twitter is in the unusual position of being a hybrid personal, professional and recreational space, depending on a user’s desires. Consequently, while businesses and industry professionals might sign up for professional networking, you’re just as likely to see users livetweeting their life, jokes and political opinions, providing a platform with a very distinctive culture.
Twitter is famously the birthplace of the Hashtag and it continues to be used prevalently on the platform. This provides a fantastic way of categorising and tracking content on the platform, allowing for all sorts of communities and campaigns to run around them.
Twitter is the fourth most popular social media site, behind Youtube, Facebook and Google+.
Like many social networks, Twitter’s demographics are skewed towards younger generations, with 36% of 18-29 year olds using Twitter. However, older age groups are still well-represented on the platform (23% of 30-49 year olds, 21% of 50-64 year olds). Only 10% of 65+ year olds use Twitter. While this does not come close to Facebook in sheer numbers, Twitter is often used by professionals and businesses for networking, meaning it lends itself well to those targeting a B2B market.
What it does well
- Content consumption and sharing – Twitter’s bite-size content and ability to share images and links provide a quick and easy way to get your content out there. Likewise, Twitter’s ‘feed’ feature, which allows users to see content from all the accounts they are following, is a fantastic way to consume content.
- Spur-of-the-moment, day-in-the-life-of content – Informal, insightful, interesting or humorous content always engages best on Twitter.
- Engaging with your fans – Twitter gives businesses and fans the opportunity to interact on a relatively equal playing field. For businesses, this makes Twitter a great place to create buzz around new services, products, promotions and competitions among their followers (an already engaged audience). However, perhaps even more importantly, the platform is a great place monitor chatter about your brand and interact with fans, showing your brand’s personality in action. Some brands use this to great effect, gaining word of mouth from a few tweets alone!
- Customer service – Tweeting is quick and easy so it’s no surprise that many customers use Twitter to chat to and complain about brands and organisations. This makes Twitter a key customer service tool as responding to customer chatter shows your business is switched on and dedicated to resolving issues. The platform is well set up for this, with the Direct Message function allowing you to send private messages to a user without a character limit.
- Live-tweeting – This is the act of giving a play-by-play account of occasion via Twitter. It is a regular occurrence on the platform and lends itself particularly well to events and conferences. Find out how it could work for you here.
- Conversations and interaction – Twitter has both like and ‘retweet’ (share) buttons, making interacting with content easy. All Tweets can also be responded to using the ‘reply’ feature, you can tag a user by ‘mentioning’ their @handle, and you can launch polls to gather feedback. All these options make Twitter particularly good for two-way interaction.
- Professional networking – With the exception of LinkedIn, Twitter is the most geared up to enable informal professional social networking. Many businesses and professionals use accounts to share content and communicate with their customers and one another.
- Local networking – It’s very easy to see what is going on in your area by browsing your area’s hashtag (e.g. #Winchester, #Hampshire), keeping you abreast of local developments. This will also allow you to see what other businesses in the area are doing, which can only benefit your messaging and marketing efforts.
- Industry networking – Searching through hashtags relevant to your business (e.g. #AmWriting is used by writers to share their craft) can help you connect with like-minded individuals and businesses.
- Hashtag campaigns – Launching a tailored #Hashtag is easy and is quickly becoming common practice among the big brands. These can ask for action (for example, #HeForShe was a rallying cry to men across the world to support feminism) or interaction (i.e. Tweet this Hashtag with a photo to enter a competition) or it can just provide a route to chat about a common topic (e.g Great British Bake Off has #GBBO to monitor and inspire chatter about the show). The beauty of this is that hashtags can be easily tracked, which make them a good way to run a measurable social media campaign. However, it’s important to carefully plan your campaigns (you don’t want a #susanalbumparty!) and monitor them in case you encounter any trolls.
- Content performance analytics – In-built analytics on the platform provide information about the reach of your content, how many people clicked your link, how many retweeted it and more, letting you know how much reach your content is getting and how engaging it is.
- Reaching an audience beyond your followers – Unlike Facebook, Twitter does not limit your natural reach and will currently deliver all your content to each of your followers. This immediately puts your content at an advantage. Since Retweets are also such a huge part of the platform, it is also easier to find a larger audience as every time your tweet is retweeted it is delivered to that user’s audience base as well. As long as your content is engaging, you have potential to reach a large audience very quickly.
- Twitter ads – Twitter allows users to run ads to promote a tweet (increase its reach), promote an account (recommend your profile as one to follow to more people) and get your hashtag trending. This is often done via interest or location or using data collected about an individual from a third party such as Google.
What it does less well
- Follower demographic analytics – Unlike Facebook, Twitter profiles do not contain much information about the person behind a Twitter account and the information it does collect is not typically publicly available. Consequently, it is not possible to see the demographic information of your followers beyond their gender and broad interests. Indeed, there is absolutely no reason for a Twitter user to provide any information about themselves, not even their real name.
- Blatantly promotional organic content – Like most social media networks, for your content to be effective it needs to be insightful and/or amusing and implicitly shareable. Traditional ad-style content is unlikely to be any of these things. If you want to promote your business, product or service, try using content marketing tactics instead.
- Long-form content – You have 140 characters. That’s it. No ifs or buts. This can be worked around by including urls or Facebook posts with additional information but, if you find that idea offputting, consider using a different platform.
- Useability – While Twitter’s user interface has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, @handles and hashtags can take some getting used to. This is by no means prohibitive and, if you think Twitter might work well for your business, we recommend giving it a go regardless!
A Twitter account might work for you if
- You are looking to network with other businesses or professionals
- You want to get more involved with the local or global community via social media
- You are willing to share an informal, behind-the-scenes look at your company
- You want to track the conversation around your business or study your target audience’s habits
- You want to launch a hashtag campaign to track and interact with chatter
If probably won’t work for you if
- You are targeting a non-professional older audience (e.g. mothers, retired people) – While some of these audiences do use the platform, this is not typical and you are better off trying Facebook.
- You prefer long(er)-form content or feel limited by 140 characters – Try Facebook or Medium instead!
- You are not interested in a soft-sell – Try running some Twitter ads instead
- You don’t have time to update the platform with regular content