Saturday, December 27, 2014

Importance of Twitter in Social Media strategy and way forward

Twitter has been a brand friendly platform. One of the biggest reasons for wide adoption of Twitter by celebrities, and brands has been its swiftness in dissemination of information apart from its transparency in not restricting content (unlike Facebook). The openness of the platform makes it easy to monitor, listen and communicate.

Activities such as live Tweeting capture interest in events and couple it with quick dissemination of information. Journalists and the news media has benefited a lot from this. The causes of its heavy adoption are easily visible in its utility in disseminating information at a rapid pace. To add some context, In 2011 when an earthquake hit near Richmond, Virginia, New York residents read about it on Twitter when, 30 seconds later, they felt the quake.

The heavy adoption and utility to Journalists and media houses has also lead to high influence of Twitter in creating news. Influential personalities now display influence through the number  of followers and make news through Tweets. Arsenal being the first premier league club to reach 5 million followers is now News. 


An author recently in an article titled "Authors are now judged by their Twitter followers, and it's a world gone mad" pointed (and rightly so perhaps) that she spends more time on some of these social media sites and pops her head in every once in a while because otherwise, she's told, she risks irrelevance. Brands similarly do risk irrelevance if they don't work on "engaging" with their followers, especially on a media that is widely adopted by the news making section of the society.


Hastags first became associated with Twitter groups (in 2007) as a way to make more sense of noise on Twitter. The Tweet by les orchard in 2007 pretty much summarizes hashtags in the way we know them today.
Hashtags are pretty much used to contribute to discussions around topics, events, experiences or follow such conversations. Brands through communities of customers can to a great degree influence share of voice and recall through effective use of hashtags. In industries/sectors with heavy competition, hashtags to a good extent can summarize which brands are outperforming others.

They've also become a way for netizens to highlight unsatisfactory experience with a brand. In many such instances conversations around these hashtags act as a proxy for media outlets to infer success or failure for a campaign. This makes the choice of a hashtag by a brand important. It should effectively communicate what the campaign/activity stands for to amplify conversations. Brands should also be prepared for these hashtags to back-fire and assess the risks to reputation associated with it.

In April, 2014 the New York Police Department did an activity on Twitter where they asked netizens to share a picture with a NYPD officer.
The NYPD campaign backfired as people shared images of police brutality. Soon this campaign made way in to the timelines of people on and off Twitter. One important lesson here is to gauge sentiment accurately before starting such an activity. The traction that a campaign can create can lead to both amplification of positive or negative sentiment. On social and in particular Twitter you cannot create perception. You can only amplify it.

To voice discontent with recent shooting events (Dec, 2014) people on Twitter used the hashtag #NYPDLivesMatter to express their outrage, echoing #BlackLivesMatter, which had been used to condemn the police killings of unarmed black men Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York.

Twitter as a platform has very easily established its authority in quickly disseminating information. Facebook introduced hashtags in June, 2013 in a bid to add greater contextualization to its posts. But still Twitter as a platform to understand what's buzzing remains a hot favorite.

Twitter cards - Beyond Communication and context

Is all the communication on Twitter and positive word of mouth driving sales? All this while for marketeers around the world, it has been a hard time to link word of mouth with sales. The ROI calculations in most cases have been restricted to return on conversations or online word of mouth measured by share of voice.

To take this forward Twitter introduced cards, which allow brand to use Tweets to drive traffic to a website. This can be done by adding a small piece of code to the website, and any users who Tweets with a link to the content will have a “Card” added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their followers.

At present Twitter cards can be used to summarize content, which includes a title, description, thumbnail, Twitter account attribution, and can be used to optimally add product information in Tweets, and also drive App downloads.

This adds a lot of value in linking websites with Twitter. The card functionality allows greater value for investment for brands on Twitter not just through advertising but in linking their digital properties with Twitter through cards.
Twitter cards in a nut-shell reduce flow barriers between Twitter as platform and digital assets of a brand. With useful call to action buttons such as download app, shop now, view website, it improves Twitter's utility as a channel for brands.

Twitter shopping - Shop while you Tweet

Twitter's evolution from sharing your thoughts in 140 characters to organizing experience through hashtags and enabling deeper integration with content, products, and apps through cards has gone a step further with Twitter's recent experiment in the online shopping space. Twitter recently launched the buy button where users could shop while Tweeting (Sept, 2014).

This is in particular for mobile users. In the experiment a few users for whom the access has been enabled can complete an entire purchase with a few taps. After tapping the “Buy” button, they can get additional details about the product post which they'll be prompted to enter shipping and payment information. This step enables Twitter to get richer information about their audience and also lets brands directly sell on Twitter. As a functionality it enables access to a huge marketplace to consumers, which can be directly leveraged by brands, sellers and e-commerce companies. At present the experiment has been small and the results are yet unknown.

Fabric - Twitter as a technology partner

Twitter evolution as a platform and its role in social media strategy for recall, lead generation, driving visits and app downloads makes it important for brands. The fact that it still does not police what appears on the timeline like Facebook makes it much more appealing. With its recent acquisitions and the launch of Fabric, Twitter remains an important platform not just for information dissemination, engagement and sales, but also becomes an important partner in technology.

About Twitter

  • Twitter is a micro-blogging website that enables users to share messages in 140 characters
  • It created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass 
  • The website was launched in July 2006
  • Hashtags evolved by 2007. They became internationally popular in 2009-10 Iranian election protests
  • In 2013 Twitter was one of the ten most-visited websites. 
  • It has been described as "the SMS of the Internet
  • As of December 2014, Twitter had more than 500 million users with more than 284 million active users