Brands have been opening Twitter accounts thick and fast, but how confident are they of obtaining real results, and are they able to measure the impact of their messaging on the microblogging network?

How Effective is Twitter as a Marketing Tool?

As the leading microblogging network launched on the New York Stock Exchange on 7 November, questions as to its usefulness and effectivenesswere still swirling around. Mycleveragency commented recently that having multiple accounts is not always useful. However, Twitter teamed up with Datalogix, a firm which specialises in connecting digital media and offline purchasing data, to assure customers that promoted tweets have a real impact on retail sales. Responding to these mixed assessments, a study from independent technology analyst and market research company Forrester entitled ‘Twitter Marketers Are Still Looking For Answers’ reveals that – notwithstanding the title – Twitter has been massively adopted as a marketing tool by brands. Over 60% of the companies surveyed having a Twitter account and 18% plan to open one. “In a world where communication between brands and their clients has become horizontal, brands really need to be on the social networks. And Twitter enables immediate interaction,” underlines Oliver Moss, head of online Public Relationsat PriceMinister, the number two e-commerce site provider in France. So far however marketers’ satisfaction with Twitter is rather low, only 55% of brands expressing satisfaction with the business value they are getting out of marketing on Twitter, a figure far below the level of satisfaction with e-mailing or search results.

Brand awareness-raising may not be the right goal

The Forrester report author argues that using Twitter to attract new followers to the brand is not necessarily the right way to use the network, although a third of all marketers polled believe that this is in fact the main reason for sharing content on this social media platform. In fact brands appear to be overestimating the extent of Twitter’s reach. “A large proportion of Twitter activity is B2B,” points out Lidia Boutaghane, consultant in Client Strategy and Collaborative Marketing at Paris consultancy Links Conseil,who is a fervent tweeter. Twitter is far more suited to engaging with an existing audience and cementing customer loyalty. “Consumers expect personalised messages and more involvement with the brand. They want to be able to participate in the lives of the brands they follow,” stresses Lidia Boutaghane. So Twitter may well be the most effective way of reaching out to influencers such as bloggers and product experts, creating relevance with tweets and retweets, and above all responding to followers’ requests. “Twitter can be a tool for handling customer complaints, provided that the Community Manager who provides the answer is qualified to do so. I don’t agree with the idea of a single generalist CM,” she underlines. Oliver Moss shares this view, adding:  “Once you’ve had a direct exchange with a customer – i.e. a follower on Twitter – s/he will remember and the positive experience will turn him/her into a loyal customer in the long term.”

Next steps towards making Twitter a real marketing platform

Disappointment has also been expressed with Twitter as regards the (lack of) guidance, education, service and support the microblogging platform has been providing so far. All of which adds to the doubts that it will prove to be a real marketing channel. The Forrester author argues that Twitter ought to be doing much more to help marketers reach and activate the follower base which comprises their clientele. It needs to broaden its offering, providing additional marketing options, and also improve its metrics, providing new tools, plus detailed advice and a guide to best practice to help marketers get the best out of the network. Meanwhile, PriceMinister has been helping its business clients to learn how to use the network properly. Explains Oliver Moss: “We’ve integrated Twitter buttons on all product files to enable our clients to share products easily with their followers.” Lidia Boutaghane also points out that Twitter“offers a large number of possibilities around events because it enables immediate sharing and intimate contact.” These advantages could well enable Twitter to cash in on the hugesocial marketing opportunity that Facebook seems to be leaving behind. Twitter’s recent acquisition of mobile ad serving solution provider MoPub could prove to be a master stroke here. Some 70% of the microblogging site’s advertising revenue comes from ‘affinity data’ which serve to target mobile advertising messages and MoPub should help to improve relevancy and targeting accuracy.

By Pierre-Marie Mateo