Ah, Twitter. Arguably the most polarizing social platform, Twitter has had its share of ups and downs in recent years, but for better or worse has become a main forum for public discourse. In an age where “everything happens so much” and keeping up can start to feel like a full-time job, Twitter has been forced to look inward and ask some tough questions.
From a marketing perspective, there are certainly reasons to be skeptical of Twitter. Chief among them: the content firehose. Despite moving to an achronological algorithm, the shelf life of a piece of Twitter content can be quite short—buried under the weight of roughly 6,000 new tweets per second. And when it comes to the tweet format itself, a hard character limit can feel constraining for brands trying to get their message across.
These factors, along with paid media questions around performance and ROI, have put Twitter on the back burner for some marketers. But this post isn’t about dwelling on already well-documented areas of improvement—areas which, if we’re honest, tend to exist across platforms. Instead, let’s spend this time together talking about reasons to be excited about Twitter. There are some things that the platform does very well, and playing to its strengths will ensure your brand is not leaving a valuable awareness tool on the table.
TWITTER: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Community Management/Customer Service
Across the social web, users typically expect a response from brands within 24 hours, on average. If that number seems high, you’re probably a Twitter user. Twitter natives expect to hear back from your brand within 1 hour. Since many of these interactions are spurred by complaints, this is an enormous opportunity for brands to right wrongs, build consumer trust, and change sentiment.
For a master class in customer service on social, look no further than Airline Complaint Twitter. Whatever it is about air travel that has the ability to bring out the worst in people, airlines like JetBlue have learned to handle stress-induced vitriol with grace.
Whether or not they’re able to solve the problem at hand, JetBlue recognizes that sometimes people just need a sounding board and a dose of empathy.
Loosening Up Your Brand
To a certain extent, brands used to be able to establish a broad social tone of voice, and be confident that a generally casual, conversational style would carry across platforms with ease. Years later, Twitter has managed to spawn a language of its own. Brands find themselves faced with the choice of participating fully in the platform’s quirkiness or playing it safe, and the choice is easier for some brands to make than others.
The aforementioned content firehose is a motivating factor here. Brands looking to stand out on the platform have had to adapt, which often means adopting a more human, and much, much less formal tone than they’re likely used to across other channels.
Try some of these classic examples on for size:
In order to appear native on the platform, Twitter forces brands to loosen their collars and break the fourth wall, interacting with users as if they were users themselves, and participating in “the culture.” This is a classic Platform Best Practices platitude that rarely lives up to its promise, but on Twitter, it’s standard operating procedure for brands.
Staying on the Pulse of Culture
While certainly not as formally established as Groups on Facebook or Subreddits on Reddit, Twitter communities are every bit the real deal. The platform gives users the freedom to curate their feed around their interests, however diverse or narrow they might be, and the one thing they all have in common: Twitter is where news breaks and conversation happens first. Whichever cultural niche you’re tapped into (music, politics, sports, The Bachelorette, comedy), this platform is where you’re hearing about it.
Two brands taking very different approaches to handling their fanbases on Twitter: the NBA and MLB. NBA Twitter is arguably the best Twitter. Even a casual fan or onlooker can appreciate the zeal with which fans take over this platform during the playoffs, tweeting game clips, commentary, stats, jokes, and memes, and ultimately driving more conversation about the league.
The MLB, on the other hand, has taken active steps in recent years to tamp down users tweeting game clips. They’re trying to own the content and conversation around their brand, on a platform that is practically built around sharing and riffing on popular content produced elsewhere. It is a baffling approach to social media in general, but Twitter especially. If you want to be precious about your brand, this might not be the platform for you.
Knowing Its Place
As a brand, even if you’re not necessarily positioned to drive these conversations, you couldn’t ask for a better cultural aggregator to help keep you in the know. Twitter recently acknowledged its place in the zeitgeist by launching an Instagram channel (is it weird seeing instagram.com/twitter in your searchbar?) with this screenshot as their first post:
Instagram is more popular by a country mile, but when some of its best content comes from Twitter, is there any doubt which platform has a bigger role in shaping internet culture?