Marketing on Twitter: Where’s the Beef?

twitter logoCall it micro-blogging, call it social networking, just don’t call it a marketing revolution. There’s no denying the fact that the Twitter social messaging platform is catching on and setting the internet marketing community ablaze. Sure, it provides a unique and novel way to keep stay updated on the day-to-day or minute-to-minute happenings within your network. I will even go so far as to say it is a great way to keep in touch with friends and casual acquaintances.

Despite all the attention it is getting, Twitter will not revolutionize marketing as we know it, and here’s why:

  1. Lack of Reach and Scale – 50% of the estimated 1.2M Twitter users are following fewer than 10 people and/or have fewer than 10 followers. Source: Twitter Blog
  2. High Composition of Marketers – According to Walter Carl, Assistant Professor of Communications Studies at Northeastern University, “The people who I see using it are an older demographic, people in marketing or P.R. or advertising, who use it for work, to present themselves as particular types of people.” If your target market is marketers, you’ve hit the jackpot. If you are trying to reach John and Jane Doe, they aren’t listening. Source:
  3. Limited Messaging Capabilities – 140 characters of text is not the place to build a brand. It’s a place to engage an active fan base, which is usually a small percentage of a company’s existing or prospective customers.
  4. Same Content, Different Channel - Despite the buzz in the marketing industry, Twitter is just a new way to package content. If the message or the content is of poor quality, using a trendy channel like Twitter is like putting lipstick on a pig. It still stinks.
  5. Short on Metrics – Other than your number of followers, there are no metrics or analytics that can be used to determine the success or failure of a Twitter marketing push. You could tag the URLs you include in your posts to determine click volume, but you will be clueless as far as impressions, CTR or any impact on brand metrics.

Of course, there are success stories and examples of Twitter being used in unique and productive ways to facilitate communication and networking. But as a marketing channel, it is fraught with many limitations and only a few practical applications. Just like other new media phenoms, Twitter will eventually come back down to earth and be recognized for what it really is: just another weapon in the online marketing arsenal that can be deployed to reach certain niche audiences when the objectives, strategy, timing, placement, and message have been determined and committed resources are in place.

If, after some thought and planning, you have decided to utilize Twitter in your marketing or PR plans, there are plenty of great resources and internet marketers to follow.

That being said, I like Twitter as a personal messaging service and casual distraction. If you are on Twitter and want to reach out, you can find me at @AndrewCMiller.


  1. says

    Really great, well-researched post Andrew. I think you’re right about it not being a great marketing tool, at least not in the traditional sense. I still think it can be good for those who run a blog. For example, I subscribe to the Consumerist Twitter, which posts links to latest articles on the Consumerist. I could use an RSS reader there, but instead, I prefer the Twitterfeed because it stands out more. People who may follow RSS feeds through Twitter might be more inclined to click on the links and visit a blog they’re interested in, but don’t follow too regularly. That could also just be the way I use it :). Thanks for the link back. I think you’re spot on that this isn’t a quick marketing wonder-tool. I think it works better as something you let develop itself through a feed or are actively involved with. Either way, the returns won’t be huge.

  2. says

    Respectfully disagree on most of your counts above. Twitter is an enabler… for example, if you have a clever viral campaign up, send the link to your customers, influencers and friends on twitter and watch as they retweet it, extending your reach and helping you build buzz.

    The thing with twitter is that it’s use is only going to be as good as the people who are in your twitter friends network. If you tweet to unconnected individuals, the message dies and your effective use of twitter for marketing will be small. However, if your network consists of influential bloggers, online hyper-actives and thought leaders, all of whom pride themselves on having the latest info when it comes available, they will repeat (or should I say re-tweet)the information and help build reach.

    As for having untrackable metrics, thats not entirely true. Fireclick links (or similar) are easily set up so you can track exactly how many ppl are hitting your website / youtube vid / blog etc through twitter. This is exactly the same as when you send out your eDMs or similar.

    I could go on…

  3. says

    Hey Ellery, thanks for the comments. I agree that Twitter can enable certain conversations that might not take place in other channels, but I still don’t think it has reached the critical mass required to become a successful, repeatable, scalable, targeted, measurable advertising channel.

    In the 3.5 months since I wrote this post, some smart people have created a few solid examples of successful marketing on Twitter. There’s no way to know how many attempts have failed. I’m guessing the signal-to-noise ratio is still WAY too high to predict success.

    So my problem with Twitter as a marketing channel still remains. The tool has generated a lot of buzz in a short period of time, but has yet to solve a marketing challenge that can’t be handled elsewhere, such as on a corporate blog or other social media or social networking sites.

  4. Shelly says

    Hi Andrew I totally agree, limited marketing potential, but a great way to communicate and get information to other users – social is also good.
    Getting to the point, I sadly parted with some hard earned cash to an online marketing firm, trying to market twitter. My fault, I should have researched more ie like read your blog but hey, never really heard of twitter until I received the company’s advert to make lots of cash. With our economic climate on the down side and our government denying anything is wrong I jumped at the chance.

    Lesson learnt – and still no response to my requests for a refund. Still fighting, wish me luck.


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