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Twitter is for People, Not Corporations Says a New Study




It may seem like the Twitter-verse if full of companies hawking their wares, but a new survey by 360i says it isn’t so. They recently published a report called Twitter & the Consumer-Marketer Dynamic and frankly, I’m finding a large part of it hard to believe.

The report, which you can read in full here, has three key conclusions.

1. Twitter is primarily for people, not corporations.

— More than 90% of tweets come from consumers
— Only 12% of consumer tweets mention a brand
— When someone mentions a brand name on Twitter, they’re most likely talking about a Social Network (22% of mentions), or an Entertainment (17%) or Technology brand (17%). The top brands mentioned on Twitter are Twitter itself, Apple products/brands and Google
360i

The trouble here lies in the definition of consumer vs brand. It doesn’t appear to be the same as consumer vs business, or marketer or anyone else with a financial agenda. The methodology states:

For this report 360i analyzed more than 1,800 tweets published between October 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010. Spam was removed from the sample and not counted in the final analysis.

What’s considered spam? Maybe a large number of tweets from marketers thus skewing the sample toward consumer usage. Since the survey goes on to define “brand” representation, one has to assume that the goal of this report is to look at how large companies are using Twitter for marketing, not your average small business person.

The other thing skewing the results is frequency. There are people (consumers) who tweet fifty times an hour as part of a full conversation with their friends. Most companies only send out a few tweets a day so they’d fall on the low side of the average.

2. Twitter makes the private space public.

— 94% of tweets are personal (vs. professional/self-promotional)
— 92% of users keep their tweets public
— 85% of tweets reflect original content (non-RTs)

No surprises here. Most people have no filter when it comes to posting on Twitter and they don’t seem to care who sees it.

3. Companies tend to talk at people – not with them.

— 43% of consumer tweets are conversational (@replies to other users)
— Yet only 12% of all marketer tweets demonstrate active dialogue with consumers
— Only 1% of consumer tweet that mention a brand are part of a conversation with that brand.

This is easy to see and fits in with the earlier statement about frequency of tweets. Most companies don’t have the time or the money to carry on this kind of conversation. But it’s also an issue of business vs. pleasure. It’s one thing for Kraft foods to send recipes out on Twitter but should their rep be responding to tweets about the latest celebrity scandal or pics of Susie’s new dog? Would consumers even accept that kind of behavior from a corporate entity or would it be seen as a bogus attempt to gain customer loyalty?

What do you think? Should companies attempt to emulate the tweeting habits of the consumer in order to fit in? Or should there be a clear dividing line between corporate behavior and personal behavior in social marketing?

  • http://www.dhcommunications.com/blog Dianna Huff

    Cynthia,

    Good article. What I find frustrating about Twitter and communicating with “brands” is that many don’t reply to my “original” posts. I’ve posted compliments, shout-outs, etc. and get . . . nothing. The whole point of social media — or at least I thought the point was — to communicate with *people.* If Twitter is just another mass broadcast medium (i.e. TV) where you shovel out dreck all day in order to be “connected,” then we should all just give up and go home.

  • JIm Matorin

    Cynthia: Good stats. To me the numbers represent an opportunity especially when corporations learn how to properly engage with people; converse with people vs. talk at them.

    Dianna: It is too early to go home. On the flipside it is time for companies to sit back and plan out their twitter strategy since most jumped in without knowing what they were going to do.

  • http://merchantstand.com Bob Williams

    As with any marketing and communication channel, some companies have excelled and benefited from twitter while others have not (or have chosen not to play). It’s an individual choice that each company needs to make. If their target audience is on twitter then it’s probably a good bet the company should be their too.

  • http://twitter.com/jefree86 Lorenzo Ceotto

    Hi Cynthia, very interesting article… Businesses should not emulate the tweeting habits of the consumer , is not possible and is not convenient. But most of them should act in a more conversational context.