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So I added a poll to one of our websites. I don't have a significant sample size yet, but less than 10% say they use Twitter. Of those that use Twitter, under 50% say they'd probably follow us on Twitter if we were on Twitter too.
From here on, it's all guesswork. Of those who say they'd probably follow us, only x% would actually get around to doing so. Then, of those who would technically follow us on Twitter, how many would actually read our tweets?
One blogger measured a 1% clickthrough for a link in a single tweet, and over 16% clickthru if the link is re-tweeted by others. Admittedly, you can't extrapolate much from those statistics from one guy. It's probably difficult to measure overall conversion rates on Twitter. Twitter might help increase customer trust, company branding, and/or direct sales, but it's difficult to quantify all of that.
Nevertheless, if that guy's clickthrus is any indication of involvement, it still suggests to me that Twitter followers are not all that engaged in any one Twitterer (and I think this becomes more problematic as Twitter grows and you have too many tweets to read).
So assuming again that less than 5% of our customers would actually follow us on Twitter, and assuming that x% of followers actually read much of our tweets, and that x% of those engaged followers would actually buy anything from us because of something they specifically saw on Twitter, I'm still not enthusiastic about Twitter.
I recognize that Twitter is probably best for information sites, social networking, high-tech retail, success depending on the effort you put into it, etc. However, for the average ecommerce sector, it seems that there are too many companies on Twitter relative to the actual number of Twitterers and it seems that there's so much hype relative to potential for increased revenue. It seems everyone's jumping on the bandwagon without asking if they're making any money!
So is my thinking way off, or is Twitter truly overhyped if you really look at the numbers? Is it worth investing time and effort to marketing to that small segment, or is the Twitter market bigger than I imagine?
(Next time: Facebook, MySpace and corporate blogs!)
Having said that, I would never follow a Twitter account that tweeted mainly about stuff for sale unless I was really, really interested in that product category. When I see a new follower with more than a couple of self-promos on their profile page, I block the account without hesitation.
To leverage Twitter to build your business, I'd look at Zappos as the ideal model. They maintained a strong presence there with a customer service emphasis, and in conjunction with great marketing and service, became wildly successful.
If your products have true fans, then a Twitter account that mainly tweets special offers and new products might work. Otherwise, I'd take a softer approach:
1) Monitor Twitter for posts about your company or products and respond in a friendly manner. Don't argue.
2) Monitor Twitter for questions about your category, and provide helpful, accurate, non-promotional advice. Some portion of those you help or who find your tweets will check out your site.
3) Post industry news that people will find interesting.
4) If you have a blog on your site, use Twitter as a way to increase its traffic and interaction without any sales pitches.
5) Be interactive and human. When I look at new followers to determine if I should follow, ignore, or block, I always look to see if the account is just "broadcasting" (ignore or block) or really interacting (maybe follow back).
I agree that strong ROI may be tough to achieve. In the short run, think of it as a necessary evil, like running the obligatory small Yellow Pages ad even though you think it's overpriced. As your comfort factor grows, you may find ways to really make it work for your business.
Keep in mind, too, that most Twitter traffic is "invisible." That is, because of the plethora of Twitter clients, URL shorteners, etc., only the tiniest fraction of Twitter traffic will carry a referrer. I can attest to that by watching my blog traffic. If a Twitter celeb tweets a link, and it gets retweeted by others, I'll see many hundreds of visitors arrive. Only a few dozen will be identified as twitter.com referrals, though, and most will have no referrer at all.
Hey, I know the deal on Internet Marketing so since I was in the market I wrote both of them back with the info they asked for and have never heard anything back from either of them. ever. This is my opinion as a consumer.
Here's the deal, I'm on Twitter and I think it's fun. I use it to meet new people that have similar interests and I have full control because I can screen them before I start a conversation with them. To me Twitter is not a marketing tool, but if I post that I'm having trouble with my battery it makes me feel good that someone is listening and if they can offer me some help that's even better.
The thing that pissed me off is that I was interested and I was ready to buy, but both people left me hanging. You guys know that it's hard to get noticed online so when someone acknowledges you it's nice, but when you respond and they leave you hanging it's bad. And since you approached me with a business deal, that's bad customer service.
The best part about Twitter is that it's ALL optional. If I don't want to hear from you, I don't have to. If I don't want to respond to you I don't have to. If I don't want you to follow me I can block you. I can basically create my own experience. And you can too as a marketer...
So go search people out and send them an offer. All that can happen is they can say no, block you or reply with a nasty message (which basically means No) but overall you either get a sale or you don't.
I was willing to buy, but after being abandoned I ended up buying a new computer instead of just a battery. (ie. I spent $2k with Apple instead of $200 with an internet marketing guy who dropped the ball.) If that guy had been more responsive I would have spent the $200 with him without blinking.
I think twitter is worth trying, but you have to use it with an understanding of how other people may be using twitter. If you can make your business fit their experience I think you will do pretty good.
I'm basically throwing away my account there-- I've got 1000 followers-- I'm tweeting occasionally and using a collection of follower churn applications I wrote to get more and more followers little by little. Eventually either they will cancel my account or I will have 5000 followers at which point I imagine the traffic (because of retweets, etc) will be interesting enough to bother with.
I've also thought of starting 10 twitter accounts and building them up the same way, hopefully building up an aggregate audience around 20,000 or so. Perhaps I will try this and see how it works-- the worst thing they can do is cancel my account, in which case I will waste less time.
Saturation and preaching to the choir (other spammers) are the two main problems with Twitter. Expect it to vanish from the scene within two years.
[edited by: bill at 8:36 am (utc) on Oct. 5, 2009]
[edit reason] fix spelling [/edit]
Interesting, you complain about the constant din, and yet you appear to be using applications and account building strategies that only contribute to that din.
I think you get out of Twitter what you put in a lot of the time. Good quality, personal, on-topic interaction with your followers seems to work best. I'm not sure there are any good automated solutions that can reap similar results.
On this Ecommerce thread [webmasterworld.com], I wrote:
How about the opportunity cost and ROI?
Sure, every extra bit helps, but if you spend a lot of time on Twitter and squeeze out an extra few sales per month, then you'd have been better off putting those hours into website improvements.
People are always saying that Twitter helps, but without any actual numbers, that claim is virtually useless. There's either a lack of critical thinking, or (understandably) people don't want to share hard numbers, or both