Does Tweeting Generate Any Lasting Value?

Social media, generally speaking, is about creating relationships with your consumers. In the past, it was difficult, costly, and time-consuming to establish these relationships. If you wanted to spend time with your consumers, you had to get on a plane and meet with them, maybe at their office or maybe at a conference or event. Alternatively, you could pick up a phone and make a call, but that was intrusive and you could only make one call at a time. Sending letters was a good idea, but then you’d start to get into junk mail. E-mail is a great idea, but who among us doesn’t sit down every morning to an inbox jam-packed with newsletters from companies that we may have had some transaction with?

Social media represents a new solution for generating those relationships. When a consumer becomes a fan of your page, decides to follow you on Twitter, or subscribes to your channel on YouTube, that person has entered into a relationship that is very easy to get into or out of. And the content the connected consumer receives doesn’t fill up an in box or overflow an RSS feed. The connected consumer can tune in when she wants to and get just what she needs from it.

This introduces a new question: As actions become easier and less impactful, are they perceived as being less valuable by consumers? That is, if a relationship is easy to get into, then do consumers really care what they get out of it? To put an even finer point on the question: When a consumer connects with your brand via social media, is she looking for a long-term relationship or reacting to a passing notion?

Who Are the Strongest Brands on Twitter?

These questions are difficult to answer unless you have a good sense of how your brand is performing. Even if you know the value generating from your social media campaigns, chances are you haven’t been running these campaigns for too long. It may just be too early to tell for most marketers.

But we can look across a network like Twitter and see how brands are performing, in general, thanks to a powerful tool called Twitalyzer. This public, free tool allows you to get a deep look at any Twitter user as well as any brand. It does this not only by pulling lots of data directly from Twitter, but also performing some functions on the data to come up with a rating of a person’s or brand’s strength, generosity, and clout.

The site also lists the 100 strongest brands on Twitter. On the day I used the tool, the following brands were listed among the strongest: NYTimes, The Hangover, El Mundo, Palm, HTC, HP, and Sony.

It’s pretty hard to find real gems in here.

NYTimes and “El Mundo” are publications, of course. It’s pretty likely that people are not tweeting about those brands, but rather discussing stories and providing links to the stories. “The Hangover” is a movie (evidently a pretty good one), but it’s hard to imagine that people will continue to mention this brand after a week or more. Unfortunately, the same is for “HP.” I figured people were discussing laptops, printers and other technologies but it ends up that people were mostly talking about Harry Potter, not Hewlett-Packard. (The movie, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” was released just a few days ago.) Palm and HTC are good, solid brands as well, but both have recently had some news and releases.

Twitter Is a River, Not a Lake

There’s growing evidence that we can’t think of “social media” as one single thing. There are lots of different types of sites and each one offers a different type of experience. And, people use these sites in different ways with different expectations. As a marketer, you should follow this lead and tune your strategy to match up with not only what the site offers but also how consumers want to connect.

For many consumers and many brands, Twitter seems to be more of a river than a lake. That is, you dip into Twitter and see what passes you by. Facebook, on the other hand, is more of a lake, where you dive in, spend lots of time, and maybe even set up a permanent spot. Part of Twitter’s value is dipping in and seeing what might be available for you. One of the really interesting elements of Twitter are “trends” — topics that many people are tweeting about at a particular moment. Twitter understood this and actually put the top trends directly into its interface, along the right-hand side of its page. If you want to know more about trending topics, you can visit a site like What The Trend that tells you not only what is trending, but also why.

This notion of trending should suggest a particular strategy for marketers using Twitter. Certainly, there are good opportunities to use Twitter for customer service, in the way that Comcast has pioneered. But we have to recognize that most brands are going to do better on Twitter by focusing on using it campaign-style, seeking to become a part of a particular trend, during a particular time.

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