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  • R.I.P Twitter as a Marketing Platform

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    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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    106 comments on “R.I.P Twitter as a Marketing Platform
    1. avatar

      This is a timely post as I’ve been relfecting on ‘brand’ and twitter as a means of getting the message out there.
      I have a small number of followers of about 500 as opposed to the ‘big guns’ who have 1000’s.
      How do you keep up and form relationships on twitter with such huge numbers?
      It’s easy to get swallowed up on Twiiter with the traffic so we use twitter as one of various ways of forming relationships and communicating our message e.g. our blogs, commenting on blogs, networking etc.
      Twitter is fun but I’m yet to be convinced it’s an effective way of selling a product or service.

    2. avatar
      Ari Herzog says:

      – I don’t have the patience to wade through 62 comments — none of which are on the same page here. (Why they’re not is a mystery to me and something Dan should fix.) Yet, therein lies Dan’s point. How many people will read through all past comments, or how many will only look at what’s in front of their screen at that moment in time? 😉

      – In his running of metrics, Dan missed a crucial element: Approximately 70-90% of new Twitter users quit after the first month. They don’t delete their accounts, but stop using them. Thus, I assume the quantity of one’s followers is representative of maybe 10% to 30% of active users, and a far lesser percentage who care enough to read, and a lesser percentage who respond or retweet. So, maybe 1% of your followers are authentic? That’s who you’re marketing to.

    3. avatar
      Glenn says:

      Oddly, the reason I read this article was due to a link and mention in a Tweet. I agree there is a million follower fallacy and I can’t imagine sifting through Tweets from 100,000 followers or even listing 2% of them. Everyone uses Twitter for different specific reasons, I imagine the platform will evolve and the tools will improve. I don’t think it’s RIP for any aspect of Twitter.

    4. avatar
      kriskris says:

      What if Twitter put a limit of users that you can follow to? Let say 500. Everything would be more eficient.

    5. avatar

      I think the article is right that Twitter is getting bigger and bigger and you can’t just send out your message. You have to interact with people on Twitter.

    6. avatar

      I think the article is right that Twitter is getting bigger and bigger and you can’t just send out your message. You have to interact with people on Twitter. Nice blog post!

    7. avatar

      Hi Dan,

      Your conclusions are right on the money, as myself and several other marketers have also found after exhaustive testing with different approaches on Twitter. It’s just no good as a direct marketing platform. One can cite the 80-20 rule, as I have in the past, but even 80-20 is being way too generous, as your numbers show.

      One thing you neglect to mention though is that networking is a form of marketing. It’s not direct marketing, but it’s marketing nonetheless. Any time a business owner engages at the local Chamber of Commerce mixer, or at the Kiwanis club, or at a professional conference, etc. he/she is involved in marketing. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are great networking places, but there’s a definite time element involved, and it just may not be worth it for some of us, depending on what business we’re in. Plenty of other ways to market online, especially if you’re more oriented toward direct marketing, which you obviously are.

    8. avatar

      Could Twitter actually be finding its purpose in our hyper-connected environment? I’ll offer this in argument against my earlier comment. Is it the next CNN? Quite possibly:


    9. avatar
      Adrienne says:

      This post is right on. I mainly used twitter to network and get to know others in my industry. More than ever Twitter is a news stream. I do think twitter can be a powerful insight tool for those that take the time to follower key individuals there industry but if you are just adding people like crazy you will see your stream become noise without any substance.

      I do think in the future you will see more twitter user become choosy of who they follow and why. Again it about getting value!

    10. avatar
      John Rosa says:

      Dan, great article and great information/facts, I especially enjoyed the fact that you noted “The Real Applications” list.

      What I find most interesting is; Twitter is a “Social Media” site. What I see is that most people, companies, etc. are now jumping onboard to use Twitter more as a Lead Pipeline, Marketing/Advertising Tool, Monitoring Tool (what is being said about my company), and to some extent, a Mass Mailing (so to speak) tool. What seems to be forgotten is it is a Social Media tool and Social is the key word inferring enthusiastic (in my words) interaction, NOT a one way push only tool or application. I see constant push streams almost 90% of the time from users, i.e. quotes from authors, etc. being the most prominent almost every 30 seconds from some people just to have their name (and face) show up in a constant stream, but they are not interacting with anybody! So, what is the success of that type of usage, it is the same as getting a coupon pack in the mail everyday (very one way with no feedback to the sender)? it will only drive a good percentage of users away in annoyance in the end short term and will minimize the applications strengths overall.

      Hey, just my thoughts and observations.

    11. avatar
      Brian Meeks says:

      I am curious how often you clean out your followers? I agree with the Ari that many of the people who start then quit. There are also lots of people who are just spammers. As a rule, with each new follower 45% get blocked, 45% get followed back and the remaining 10%, I do nothing. By blocking people who follow me, but are just spammers, porn, or ‘Follow Me and I will Follow You’ people, I am able to keep my Follower number under control and filled with people who are active and with whom I am able to build relationships.

      In my humble opinion, the most important metric is the Followers to Listed ration. I will often block people just based on that ratio. I like to see it at 5% or above. The people who list someone are the ones who are listening. The List numbers are not yet being gamed like the follower number.

      All that being said, I think all of your points are quite valid. This was a good post and I think most people would benefit from reading it.

    12. avatar

      Dan, great post in my blog here http://bit.ly/9p3a8T I talk on Social Relevancy and the Open Graph. The problem with real time is just that its a snap shot in time and without filtering the people you want to get information from pass by. The other major problem is lack of filtering. We are working on the real time side of this as it connects to a brand and their cross affinity associations. There is a collective content sharing happening all the time around vertical themes and without a way to segment out the ones that matter the most Twitter and other real time platform will suffer from being a good advertising platform vs just a broadcast point in time notification system. There is some great work done in this space of determining the value of a follower and influence http://an.kaist.ac.kr/~mycha/docs/icwsm2010_cha.pdf Its super technical but great points on how they determine Twitter influence, @ChaseMcMichael

    13. avatar

      my apologies for not reading all comments, but I’ll try to give my humble opinion about this topic.
      Of course Twitter is not (that kind of) marketing tool. Marketing as we know it (1960’s 4 P’s), is not quite effective nowadays. We have to think as Marketing as “communication”, not mologue.
      I’m completely agree with all the real applications listed in the article, but I think Twitter is a Word of Mouth tool, with real applications in marketing. But advertising is not a good idea in Twitter, IMHO.

    14. avatar
      euonymous says:

      Amie, don’t get discouraged. A lot of “followers” are just picking you up mechanically and if you don’t autofollow back will drop you in a few days. Don’t take it personally. Follow people you have something in common with. As to advertising, people do search with Twitter. For example, if you were looking to generate visibility for an Italian restaurant in Hartford, CT, you would want to be sure one or more tweets a day mentioned Hartford and restaurant. Try this: search for Hartford, or whatever your city is. Look at the folks who mention your area… check their profiles, are they from your area? If so, follow them. They may follow you back. Also, there’s a great little tool at twunfollow.com which will email you every day letting you know who has followed and unfollowed you. You can then check them out and personally reach out to those who make sense. Building visibility and a community that recognizes you takes time. And some smart work. Hang in there.

      • avatar
        Amie Street says:

        That’s great info! I didn’t even think about some of the stuff you said. I’ll try they, and follow people more directly realated to what I’m doing. I have people from real estate companies and thing like that. I have ZERO interest in what they say.

        I’ll keep learning and trying new things. Thanks again for the insight!
        http://blogjourney.blog.com this is my site also only a week old.

    15. avatar
      Kim Randall says:

      First, this comment is coming from someone that has over 4,000 followers and is following a little under that many people. There are tools that help organize your Tweets (Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Twhirl, MyVBO). If I were using the web and the web only then yes, I would be overwhelmed and never see anything, but I’m not and that is in fact how I saw this post. I have made many amazing real life friends thru Twitter even with those thousands of followers. If you know how to use the different tools then it doesnt matter how many you follow.

      Onto the subject of Twitter for brands …. You have contradicted yourself in this post. In one sentence you are basically saying that no matter what you Tweet no one is seeing it and then in the next you are saying to have contests via Twitter and to give stuff away. That my friend is a form of using Twitter for marketing and advertising. Do you realize that each and everything you Tweet is ultimately a part of your Online branding efforts?
      I know all of this because I study it all each and every day, I educate businesses on the use of the Social Web and Twitter is still up there with the big dogs. Should you put all of your eggs into Twitter? No, but you also shouldn’t put them all into a blog or Facebook. You still need a real-time platform for getting the word out and Twitter is just that place. Try using hashtags and also try interacting in between your promotional Tweets. It’s “Social Media” and not “Spam Media” you have to build the trust! If you are still using Twitter as your only Online advertising then you need to consult a good Social Media Strategist that can educate you in the many different platforms available.

    16. avatar
      David Clare says:

      Of course no-one will see your message if you just tweet it out an hope people will see it. But that is terrible marketing.
      You must engage with people – @replies will make sure people will see your message, but it must also be of interest, or they will stop following or block you.
      Being a good tweeter will mean people list you more, will go to your actual twitter page and want to see what you write. Many marketers on twitter make the mistake of just plugging links over and over and over. Until they actually engage with people, and stop caring about how many followers they have, they won’t get any results.

    17. avatar


      If I was following 78,000+ people I’d be missing tweets too. Instead, I target who I follow, and connect with those few. I guess its the old shouting in a room, or having a conversation argument. Messages can be heard in multiple ways…even on Twitter.

      I suggest reading the comment from Kim Randall…and then rereading it over and over.

    18. avatar

      Dan solid post Another post http://bit.ly/bUCEQR on How to Measure Social Media Marketing Performance came out today by Ryan and really talks to some major points you made. I focused on Social Relevancy http://bit.ly/9p3a8T and how that impacts the brand around identifying influencers. The big challenge I see with Twitter is for brand to filter out consumer relevancy and there is only a small % that is interconnecting with the brands composition that matters. Tim pointed out the limit setting well and agree on relevance. @ChaseMcMichael

    19. avatar
      BeBizzy says:

      You’re missing the point of Twitter as a marketing platform, or just as a conversation piece in general. If you provide quality content and engage your followers, you will get read and people will buy your products or services.

      If you simply puke out advertisements and marketing material, you will get lost in the rest of the junk that gets tossed aside.

    20. avatar
      Brian Carl says:

      Way too many comments to read to see if anyone else is making the same point, however I think your logic is flawed.

      You are using Marketing in a much to literal sense in this post. Your last paragraph about using Twitter as a brand awareness platform, is marketing and that is the most viable way to market on Twitter already.

      Also, the more people who follow you, the more of a chance you have to get retweeted to all of their followers, especially since Twitter made the retweet so easy. Of course this is not as easy as using it for some of the other applications, but if you are making content that people want to notice, they will see it.

    21. avatar
      Terry says:

      I agree. I’ve cut back on Twitter because its too much and too little at the same time. Much of the “marketing” is pointless, repeated blurbs. (Besides that, who know’s where those links will take you…)

      All the information (constant “Tweets”) are a little overwhelming to actually take in… let alone remember.

      I’m a recruiter and use Twitter for networking, sourcing and sharing my open jobs. I do try to engage my friends and followers whenever possible.



    22. avatar
      Terry says:

      I agree, Dan! I’ve cut back on Twitter because its too much and too little at the same time. Much of the “marketing” is pointless, repeated blurbs. (Besides that, who know’s where those links will take you…)

      All the information (constant “Tweets”) are a little overwhelming to actually take in… let alone remember.

      I’m a recruiter and use Twitter for networking, sourcing and sharing my open jobs. I do try to engage my friends and followers whenever possible.



    23. avatar
      Dave says:

      Agreed. I quit tweeting a while ago because it became just as cluttered as most other marketing channels. With so much noise it is incredibly difficult to rise above the clutter and attract a true, engaged following. It also became an exercise in complete chance to find a tweet that actually provided me any value whatsoever. The time & effort invested vs. real return ratio just didn’t make sense once I looked at it. That Twitter time is time you will never get back. It was a fun experiment for a while and maybe at some point in the future it will evolve into something more useful for me.

      I’ve been making this point about social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for a while now: Until money starts exchanging hands then the service providers don’t have a real business model unless they start charging subscribers..

      Facebook is experiencing this right now. They tried to monetize the service by allowing advertisers to target people who fit a desired profile and now they have a serious backlash on their hands over privacy concerns. Obviously advertisers wanted more than just the ability to blast their messages to generic users. Can these platforms survive as Advertiser Supported models? I don’t know–but I doubt it.

      Money needs to flow eventually or everyone will voluntarily stop using these services….unless the providers pull the plug first.

      ~ The Marketing Guy Who Drives Sales

      • avatar

        Sales is where money should be made. Marketing is about getting to know your customers (segmentation, database and all that). Cutting yourself off from Twitter is only going to blind you from a whole load of people. I’d suggest that you were not mastering twitter correctly, as to engage with the right people, which delivers results, is pretty easy!
        140 characters, a few times a day too much time and effort? Please.

    24. avatar
      Grant Spoon says:

      Twitter is only part of it and just because you have a voice doesn’t mean people will listen. Content and usefulness will always be valued be it on Twitter, blog, facebook etc. If only 1% of twitter followers get you, then that’s normal marketing response rates.
      Second, the noise can be filtered by twitter lists. I have one for people I know, for good thinkers, and news. No one makes it to my list without having good content and YES, I am loyal to those tweeters.. As a result I see most of the tweets they send, it is not lost at all. Follower/following counts are really bogus yet I suppose that means someone will invent a way to create bogus lists too. Evolution can be messy, cheers.

    25. avatar
      Ryan says:

      I’m just annoyed with writers who proclaim the death of something – as if they have the power to do that. I proclaim the death of death proclamations…and bloggers who blog about blogging.

    26. avatar
      Bill Oates says:

      So logical… and something of a relief actually. Late to the party as I am, I was concerned about tweeting so seldom- I only do it when I post a new video-blog to my site (because Twitter and facebook links are automatic). Only very occasionally do I tweet links I find because I think they are of value. People I follow seem to be having have a blab-o-lanche, tweeting whether or not they have valuable content to offer.

      • avatar
        grant says:

        Bill, you got that right, “Blab-o-lanche” as if their computer generated? tweets are actually doing much.

    27. avatar
      Matt Massey says:

      So what this says to me is that the value of twitter is in quality NOT quantity, There is more value in more connected relationships and the twitspam and twitnoise will reduce drastically.

      Follow connections that you actually connect with personally and “cut the fat” to superfluous connections.

    28. avatar
      Jason Murphy says:

      Twitter is becoming and will continue to work it’s way into search results…don’t see anything about that in this post. Seems a little watered down…imho…#fail

    29. avatar
      Tema Frank says:

      Actually, Jason, I suspect it won’t be long before Google starts discounting tweets in its algorithim.

      Dan, this is one of the most insightful articles I’ve read about Twitter. I think you are bang on!

    30. avatar

      Well, there are other ways that tweets populate the web, through search results and syndication. Plus retweeting and special-retweeting users help spread the message. I can see the value diminishing, but if you play the cards right, I think you can still use twitter for marketing. With the Twitter lists a lot of people group the users into valuable pools and only watch those lists. I have a list where I watch exclusively for some users. So, it’s not only about the person who sends the tweets, it’s also about the users and how they develop a better “listening” strategy…

    31. avatar
      euonymous says:

      I’ve been wondering whether the explosion in Twitter use among people of working age might be connected to the current recession. As people become more engaged in their work, and as the unemployed become employed, the distractions of Twitter may have less power. We shall see.

    32. avatar

      Dan this is a great post. I think that we are many times fooled by the number of users that we “think” we are marketing to you Twitter. I continuously see that I get more traffic from other social media sites such as Facebook and Stumble Upon than I do Twitter.
      However, as you stated, there is an opportunity cost in not using Twitter. I say keep using it but it should by no means be your primary Marketing Platform.


    33. avatar
      Don Lafferty says:

      Twitter is about the listening – about the hunting. It’s a great place to create community for your event or your local business, and when used in conjunction with geolocating communities like Foursquare, it can be effective in delivering high probability leads to your biz dev, PR and community-building efforts.

      Just because it’s not shooting fish in a barrel anymore doesn’t mean it’s not still a tremendously valuable source of leads – if you know how to “listen” and engage appropriately.

    34. avatar

      Great post Dan! I also think it’s important to mention that one should look for quality over quantity. I know people who have built their email lists to 10,000 subscribers, and they are making as much money (if not more) as those with lists eight to ten times bigger. The same could be said for your Twitter followers – you want people who care about what you have to say, and will be looking for your tweets and responding to them. The new goal should be to get “listed” as much as possible on the lists that people are checking daily.
      Thanks again for the valuable information!

    35. avatar
      Mike Brown says:

      Dan: Great analysis of the platform. I really like how you pointed out the real uses. Thanks for a great post.

    36. avatar

      Dan, I disagree. Business is done between people not companies. This always requires communication in the first place, not fancy marketing campaigns from a sales funnel perspective. And Twitter – as social media in generell – is an excellent plattform for this kind of conversation.

    37. avatar
      kyle lacy says:

      I guess we’ll just have to see 🙂 In the end it’s all about relationships that are lasting. (not just networking)

    38. avatar

      hmm.. but creating buzz, building perception, and brand awareness are all part of marketing….

    39. avatar
      Duane says:

      This is the best news I’ve heard all day. Does this mean all the people who come to twitter and other social networks to promote themselves (and give nothing in return) will go elsewhere?

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