People don’t much care for brands’ self-promotional messages on their company Twitter feeds.

When brands tweet users don’t engage, because it doesn’t look like an authentic message from someone they know or trust, it just looks like an ad.

Of the 0.5% of Twitter users that influence the rest, product based brands are rarely the big influencers.

The stats

  • According to the latest statistics from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) 79% of businesses consider Twitter to be a core part of their marketing activities.  
  • 60% of marketers plan to significantly increase their Twitter activity over the course of the next year.
  • Twitter has a massive reach of 500m users, 6.9m of which are active daily users.

Readership more important than reach

The trouble is that reach isn’t really what brands need to be concerned about. Brands need to think about good, old-fashioned readership.

Key to Twitter’s importance are those 2.5m influencers that impact all the other users, celebrities, sports stars, journalists, politicians, artists, business owners, experts, scientists, all offering influential access to a defined target market of people that want to consume the tweets of that Twitter user.

Rather than being the often skim-read tweets of friends and co-workers, followers don’t just read influencers’ tweets, they specifically visit their favourite Twitter profiles and browse through the past tweets from that influencer.

Those influential tweeters are the channel brands should seek involvement with as the audiences are so amenable to the 140 character messages from the strangers that they see on TV, read about in the paper, talk about at the water cooler or listen to on the radio.

Use of celebrities

That’s why brands are increasingly sponsoring tweets from influential Twitter users like celebrities. The third party endorsement of a celebrity’s recommendation can be communicated to millions more followers than brands can achieve on their company accounts, as celebrities tend to have far larger followings than brands.

Look at the disparity between Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand and chocolate manufacturer Snickers, which earlier this year paid Ferdinand to take part in its ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry…’ Twitter campaign.

The Man United star’s tweets can reach 3.3m followers, while the Snickers UK Twitter profile can only directly reach its own 1,800 followers.

Given that the average Twitter user has 126 followers, if every one of Ferdinand’s followers retweeted the promotional ‘Snickers’ tweet it would have a potential reach of more than 400 million Twitter users.

But it wasn’t just the reach that caused Snickers to approach the footballer. It’s because a tweet from Ferdinand is highly valued by his followers who are far more likely to consume a tweet from their favourite footballer than they are a tweet from Snickers UK.

With auto-following, auto-retweeting bots and inactive followers giving a false impression of brands’ Twitter success, the mindset needs to turn to real influence, not reach.

Everyone who’s read the most basic marketing book knows that when it comes to real influence, readership beats circulation every time.  Third party recommendations from celebrities are highly valued by marketers because followers view them as impartial, unbiased and based on personal experience, and are therefore highly compelling for consumers.

Turning key influencers into paid publishers

Of course you don’t have to be a celebrity to be influential on Twitter. Any Twitter advocate with a high readership is extremely valuable to advertisers.

Services need to extend the relatively laborious endorsed tweets arrangement beyond the small group of celebs already being sponsored for their tweets to the 250 million influencers that can impact a targeted audience.

Advertisers should be rewarding influential tweeters that help brands to get their tweets read, rather than those who simply want the messages batch and blasted to as many accounts as they can reach.

Services like Ad Dynamo’s Sponsored Tweets turn key influencers into paid publishers, and enable them to directly monetise their social media activity by choosing the amount they want to charge a brand per promotional tweet.

Not all influencers will be able to charge the same rates as someone like Rio Ferdinand, but that doesn’t mean that their recommendation isn’t worth something to the right advertiser.

Until now Twitter has been a numbers game, but that time is up. According to the CIM only 9% of marketers believe that they’re making the most out of their social media activity, and that needs to change.

Marketers need to be able to directly influence Twitter’s key players and need an effective and efficient system to help them secure valuable third party recommendations. This’ll ensure that their tweets are actually read, rather than simply reaching as large an audience as possible. Quality beats quantity every time.

Sean Riley

Published 17 December, 2012 by Sean Riley

Sean Riley is CEO at Ad Dynamo and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (7)

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Carl Duncker

Carl Duncker, Digital Marketing Consultant at Maverick Digital Media

Snickers only has 1,800 followers? And how much digital marketing expertise do they have at their disposal? Incredible.

over 5 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

One thing to consider when going after an influencer like a celebrity is that they are bound to get a lot of RTs and attention just for saying "Hi" to their network. That doesn't mean their followers are actually paying real attention to what is going on, they are just reacting to the conversation.

over 5 years ago


Jonathan Kerr

Agree with the above poster - did anyone see how many retweets Justin Bieber got for saying thanks? 12,000. Madness.

over 5 years ago


Ron Rodney

When did the number of people just reading something ever mean you would get more sales.

For example how many of Rio's twitter followers buy his #5 brand and I'm sure if they were all downloading his magazine we'd have heard about it.

over 5 years ago


Chris Wechner

I never even considered this possibility, but it makes sense.

None of us want to think that we're so easily influenced by celebrities, but if so many of us weren't, why are advertisers willing to spend so much money on their endorsements? (I bet I know the answer, and it isn't flattering for us.)

Celebrities are the ultimate branding. I don't blame these companies one bit.

Frankly, I wish I thought of it myself.

over 5 years ago


Ifeanyi Abraham

I actually am a registered user of Ad Dynamo and receive the regular "Submit your Tweet" campaign emails, and reading this particular post makes me see the bigger potential of how much this particular campaign can influence the way users consume things even in my immediate environment..So every activity by a celebrity has the potential to push a brand(I saw a tweet by Rio Ferdinand recently about a Nigerian song, and it had so many re-tweets, and even blog posts about it) .I see twitter differently now.

over 5 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

I think brands need to strike a balance between putting message out which are related to their company and also having natural conversations with their followers. By doing this, the personality of a company is revealed on whichever platform you’re using and people will have more of a reason to follow you and take an interest. The potential for readership and reach is huge in some cases, but as pointed out above, this doesn’t mean to say that people will act on what they have seen every time.

over 5 years ago

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