How important is Twitter for content marketing strategies?
Is Twitter still relevant in 2019? Should it even have a role in your content marketing this year?
With a rep as the spiritual home of fake news, and plagued by bots, fake followers and even hate speech, Twitter has certainly had a rough ride of late. Yet writing off its relevance may well be premature, given how important the platform was – for example – in getting the last two US presidents elected (which is kind of the final word in marketing success, no?).
So what’s it to be? Does Twitter get a retweet in your strategy this year? Or should we marketing professionals hit ‘unfollow’ on the little blue bird of social media? In this article we’ll take a moment to examine the case for and against including Twitter in your 2019 content marketing strategy – followed by a good old ‘conclusion’ (which is where you should jump to now if you’re the kind of time-poor marketing professional this blog is written for).
Reasons to avoid Twitter # 1: Smaller market share
Twitter’s global market share was a titchy 8.2 per cent in December 2018, compared to Facebook’s 66 per cent, according to StatCounter’s GlobalStats tool. If you’d rather think about that in terms of actual people, Statista says Twitter has 336 million monthly active users worldwide, compared to Facebook’s 2.27 billion. Ouch.
Interestingly, Twitter use is lower than the global average in Australia, where it holds a 6.7 per cent market share, while in New Zealand it’s higher than average at 9.1 per cent.
Sure, people who care about such things will tell you that the overall trend this year has been up for Twitter and down for Facebook. But in real terms Twitter remains a bit player in the social media game, with about half the market share of social media’s current number two, Pinterest.
Reasons to avoid Twitter #2: Share price
Admittedly a share price doesn’t mean much in terms of your day-to-day use of Twitter as a marketing tool. However it does give us an insight into how the marketplace in general views the platform’s future – especially in regards to its effectiveness as an advertising platform, as that’s how it will make (or lose) money for its investors.
At the time of writing, Twitter shares were trading around the US$30 mark, down from a high point this year of USD$47. Again, using Facebook for comparison, that platform has been trading at US$138 after a dramatic crash mid-year from the $200s following a series of privacy scandals and sudden algorithm changes.
Dusting off the crystal ball, you might say that Twitter’s current valuation shows a cautious optimism that it’s leaving the dark place it has been in (more on that anon), while also reflecting its challenges as a small player compared to more dominant and far-reaching tech platforms.
Reasons to avoid Twitter #3: Bots
On Twitter a bot is an account that has been programmed to operate automatically. Bot accounts can do things like retweet other messages, respond to tweets with a direct message or create interesting content (@Horse_ebooks for instance creates absurdist poetry, while @congressedits functions as a political watchdog by tweeting whenever it detects edits being made to Wikipedia from an IP address on Capitol Hill!).
However bots can be hard to tell apart from real users. In a 2017 paper from Indiana University and the University of Southern California, researchers found that up to 15 per cent of Twitter accounts are likely to be automated. That means that up to 15 per cent of your followers on Twitter could be phoney accounts – which really undermines the value of any activity you see from them in response to your tweets.
It also means that savvy players have been able to hijack Twitter as a tool for spreading their messages. For example a swarm of bot accounts programmed to retweet anything with a certain hashtag can fool the Twitter algorithm into thinking that topic is trending. Twitter then automatically boosts that hashtag to the top of its trending lists, which sees real people pick it up, thereby turning the message into a bona fide viral phenomenon.
And that leads us neatly to…
Reasons to avoid Twitter #4: Fake news
At the risk of stirring up controversy, here’s a very brief summary of how fake news works on Twitter, for those who’ve been too busy to read the news for, say, the last two years.
- Someone with deep pockets – a political leader with an interest in spreading divisive messages in a rival nation, perhaps! – mandates the creation of ‘troll farms’ where writers craft false narratives and publish them on shonky websites.
- A network of Twitter bots them amplifies those messages on social media by automatically retweeting them.
- An unwitting public believes the fake media outlets, or even starts to believe that no media outlets can be trusted to tell the truth, which lets the deep-pocketed individuals act with impunity.
Obviously this is a highly charged topic, with court cases being fought on it as we speak. But for Twitter the net effect is that it has recently been viewed as a toxic and compromised – even weaponised – platform, that sensible people avoid.
Reasons to avoid Twitter #5: Less engagement
Now, it’s possible you’re a ruthless dictator bent on waging information warfare (and aren’t we all like that a little, amiright?), but more likely you’re an overworked marketing professional who needs maximum bang for your budget. And if that’s the case, then the effectiveness of advertising on Twitter will be your main concern.
The bad news again here for Twitter is that ads on the platform seem to engage users less than they ought to. The clickthrough rate (CTR) on Twitter ads is around 1.51 per cent, compared to 2.36 per cent on ads run on Facebook, according to an analysis of 300 million Twitter ad impressions, and over 3 billion Facebook ad impressions by US firm Adstage,
The good side of Twitter for content marketers
Okay, that was all pretty grim, right? And if you’ve read to this point you could be forgiven for thinking that Twitter has no place in your 2019 content marketing strategy. However there are some compelling positives to having your business on the platform. Let’s take a look.
Reasons to use Twitter #1: Cheaper ads
Looking at the same analysis mentioned above we can see that, on average, the Cost Per Click (CPC) on Twitter is lower than on Facebook – US$0.38 in Q1 2018, compared with US$0.48 for old Facey.
Short story: IF your audience is on Twitter, and IF you can get them to engage with your ad, then that engagement is likely to be cheaper in the long run than the equivalent elsewhere.
Reasons to use Twitter #2: Immediacy
Twitter still rules the world of what’s happening right now on social media – and lets you tap into that in some creative ways. For example the company’s ad platform allows you to target user interests based on live, dynamic behaviour. So instead of serving ads to groups of people based on actions they’ve taken in the past, your material can appear in feeds based on what people are interacting with at any given moment.
Similarly, you can also target ads to certain hashtags. So if your product was air conditioning in Australia you could target #heatwave so that your advertisement appeared when it was most relevant.
Reasons to use Twitter #3: They’re (finally) cleaning house
Reasons to use Twitter #4: It’s great for top-of-funnel
Something about how people use Twitter seems to makes it unsuitable for bottom-of-the-funnel marketing. Yet the opposite holds true for activity at the top. The chatty, ephemeral nature of Twitter lends itself to awareness-building campaigns that can support conversions elsewhere (as Wendy’s famously proved), and even routine activity like answering customer queries can morph into marketing activity when conducted over the public forum of social media.
So after all that, how important is Twitter really for your content marketing strategy? Should it play a role in your 2019 plan?
The answer depends on what your business does and how it works. Is your sector routinely part of public conversation? Do you have customer service functions that could be surfaced via Twitter? Or do you have ambitious awareness-building goals? All of these are good reasons for making Twitter part of your strategy. After all, the trends point to Twitter improving its service and becoming more relevant to marketers as it deals aggressively with its problems.
But if none of the above applies, and both time and budget are tight, then Twitter’s limited scale and effectiveness are reasons you might happily park the platform as a content marketing tool, and flip the bird the bird in 2019.