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Is Twitter a hopeless cause for brands?

25 January 2017

Here’s a fun little challenge for you.

In 140 characters or less, tell us why a brand should give a shit about Twitter.

Seriously. We’re waiting for a compelling reason other than simply ‘well, it’s one of the big ones, isn’t it?’.

For a UK audience, the portion of Twitter users who are most active (who aren’t celebrities) seem to be stuck in an echo chamber, where the same stale thoughts and opinions get bandied about to the point of boredom. 

People from London, tweeting absolute toot to their friends, colleagues and fellow ‘thought leaders’ also living in London, about how the rest of the country should approach their web presence, to receive self-congratulatory retweets back and boost a sense of self-gratification.

Save yourself the bandwidth, and post a letter to them instead. He’s only across the road.

Twitter is still being included by default in the ‘Which social media platforms should we be on?’ conversation.

A top three looks the same as it ever did-

Facebook. Instagram. Twitter.

Sure, the youths will pick Snapchat, LinkedIn will get a mention from plenty of suits, artsy scrapbook types will vote Pinterest, and that one guy from finance who’s really into his stamp collecting will still plump for Google Plus.

But everyone surely knows ‘The Big Three’ social platforms, even your Great Aunt Susan who doesn’t believe in the internet.

So, at least for brands, does Twitter really deserve to be included in The Big Three?

Or is setting up a long-term strategy for Twitter like settling down for a three-course dinner on a sinking ship?

Especially when it’s being recommended by people so deeply entrenched in the self-contained circle-jerk of the Twittersphere, that they can’t see everyone else manning the lifeboats?

Admittedly, the HMS Twittery McTweetFace hasn’t capsized just yet.

Objectively, the platform still looks pretty sturdy.

The number of active users in the UK alone is somewhere between 15 million to 20 million, depending on your sources.

And that audience is still growing.

But only barely.

According to Statista, since the beginning of 2015, the number of monthly active Twitter users worldwide increased by 15 million, for a total of 317 million.

Yet for the previous two years, from 2013 to 2015, the increase was a massive 98 million active users.

While they’re still gaining new users, the average amount of tweets per day has remained almost the same since 2013.

On top of that, 43% of people with an account have not posted a message in the last year, according to The Last Hurdle.

New users are being shouted out of the room by the plethora of deeply embedded ‘experts’ who believe that life outside the M25 is an urban myth.

This lack of engagement from a large proportion of the Twitter audience is an immediate and unwelcome hurdle for brands looking to improve their presence on the platform – especially if your brand’s goal is centred around audience interaction.

Twitter’s had a bumpy last couple of years in general, keeping many journalists in work with stories of boss resignations, Vine shutting down, a back and forth on character limits, news feed algorithm changes, and an insistence on calling itself a news app, rather than a social media app.

So what about the core section of Twitter users who are actually active on the platform?

Consider how often you see news stories about the latest ‘scandal’ or ‘outrage’ or ‘something-gate’.

Whenever public opinion on a subject is gauged through social media, it’s typically shown via a slew of tweets from angry viewers, customers or armchair-politicians.

Twitter is the first place many people go to voice their grievances online, which makes it a fantastic tool for consumer rights.

However, because brand twitter accounts become essentially another means of customer service, it makes for quite a hostile environment for any positive campaigns.

Twitter is a very tough crowd to perform in front of for many brands. 

It’s telling that big companies like Nike and National Express have their own dedicated Twitter feeds just for handling customer queries and complaints.

Of course, some brands might still belong on Twitter.

Some may even thrive on it.

This isn’t so much a denouncement of Twitter as it is the people blindly recommending it without looking at the state of the platform.

With the myriad problems that Twitter faces, both with the company and the user environment, some important questions need to be asked about what you want to do for your brand, who your target audience is, and whether the increasingly self-contained Twittersphere is in fact the most effective place for a creative campaign.

The Twitter conundrum is something worth following up on, so expect further thoughts from this camp soon.

In the mean-time, remember – One heavily bearded marketing type who lives and works in Shoreditch, heading to Brighton, where he sees nothing but other heavily bearded marketing types living and working in Shoreditch, does not equal a well-travelled, comprehensive understanding of life outside the M25.

The same goes for Twitter’s self-contained bubbles.

 

Strawman Says

With stalling audience numbers, passive users and swathes of anti-corporate feedback, it might be time to rethink what we know about Twitter. Yes, that includes you, fixie-bike boys!