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Brands are increasingly spending real money building up and maintaining their social media presences. From Facebook to Twitter to Foursquare, questions over ROI remain, but many brands have come to the conclusion that social media is an important part of the marketing mix.

But should brands bet too much on platforms like Twitter, which often have spotty performance records but are constantly trying to cozy up to brands? The answer might just be 'no.'

Upon logging in to Twitter on Monday, I was greeted with the news that I was following nobody and had no followers, as you can see above.

Needless to say, it would be somewhat disappointing to have lost the most important aspect of my account -- the people I follow, and the people who follow me. Obviously, however, I haven't invested a significant amount of time or money trying to build up a following on Twitter.

So while this was a temporary glitch resolved within a few hours, it wouldn't have been the end of the world if all was indeed lost. Yet for a brand that has invested heavily in Twitter, logging in to see '0 following' and '0 followers' would probably be the source of confusion, worry and possibly even anger.

The good news is that Twitter seems to have improved its reliability over the past year. The fail whale hasn't retired, but it makes less frequent appearances. The problem with my account, however, which wasn't isolated to just me, highlights an inconvenient truth: for all of Twitter's improvements, it's still not exactly what one might label 'reliable'.

For brands, that's problematic. After all, who is to say that Twitter won't lose data? Or that issues like the one I experienced will be resolved promptly? You simply can't, which begs the question: how can brands protect their investments in platforms that are free and in which the operator has no contractual obligation to make things right? As if to drive that point home, another hot platform gaining traction with marketers, Foursquare, went down for more than nine hours yesterday, and very little information was made available as to the cause.

So what should brands do? It's a difficult question. Many brands simply can't afford to ignore Twitter, Facebook, et. al. But perhaps they should be a little bit more concerned about what they really have to show for their investments.

Patricio Robles

Published 5 October, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2405 more posts from this author

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Rob Drummond

I think a related risk is - what if your account is disabled for whatever reason? The risk of losing everything is a problem. Much better to focus your efforts on a search optimised blog (on your server, not theirs), and use social to enhance and promote.

almost 6 years ago

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Meghan Burton, SEO & Social Media Manager at Web Marketplace Solutions

I agree with Rob - a blog or own site should always be the basis of your marketing, with the various social networks used to promote your activity there. Building your business on a third party website - which may lose popularity or get shut down in a few years' time - is risky.

almost 6 years ago

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Chris Norton

I think you have written this post to get a reaction and it seems to have worked but I think we are past this now. 4 or 5 years ago when we all called it word-of-mouth marketing we were asking these questions but now social media has moved quickly with gurus springing up from sectors that aren't related and this has caused some brands to get bad advice. However, for every bad experience or test there are 400 good examples of how social media has brought brands much closer to their consumers and helped them with product development and brand loyalty. Just because we occasionally get a fail whale shouldn't justify ignoring social media otherwise that brand will become a dinosaur hence my company's name.

almost 6 years ago

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Crispin Heath

Your point is valid, the angle you're taking is misleading. I have a consistent issue with clients explaining, what front-end and back end actually are. When I log on and see I haven't got any followers, my mind doesn't jump to the fact that I've actually lost my followers, it just makes me think Twitter need to sort out their front end (again) Articles like this don't help the cause of understanding the new world from a technical standpoint.

almost 6 years ago

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Gary

I fidn the most successful social media campaigns are those that have a purpose more than existing.

For example, Manchester airport has a great Twitter account, you can tweet it your flight number and within 5 Minutes you will have a reply on weather its been delayed etc. it is a human being on the other end and they often tweet about events at the airport.

For them, its a tool to reach out to more people and become more connectible. It has a purpose and i think because of that it works really well.

almost 6 years ago

Simon Gornick

Simon Gornick, Owner at Moovd LLC

For big brands, social media is a peripheral goodwill generator at best. For small businesses with no marketing budgets, it's sometimes all we have.

almost 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Crispin,

When I log on and see I haven't got any followers, my mind doesn't jump to the fact that I've actually lost my followers, it just makes me think Twitter need to sort out their front end (again) Articles like this don't help the cause of understanding the new world from a technical standpoint.

In other words, when you log into Twitter and see that you don't have any followers, you assume that there's a minor glitch and no data has been lost. Operative word: assume.

Is a minor glitch more likely than a complete loss of data? Perhaps. But you miss the point: for brands investing a significant amount of time and money in social media platforms of questionable reliability, your entire investment is dependent on a third party who has no contractual obligations to you.

The marketing mix is like an investment portfolio, and risk management is key to managing such a portfolio. Yet I'd argue that the majority of social media consultants and agencies in the space overlook risk issues. Now I'm not suggesting that brands simply ignore social media, but assuming that you can rely on third party platforms because "nothing really bad will ever happen to me" is an assumption not consistent with prudent risk management.

almost 6 years ago

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40deuce

I can see why people are making assumptions about what you're saying in this article just to gain a reaction, but truthfully it's a valid question.

No one is going to sign up for thousands of smaller social networks to fit they're every nuance when big wide-open public ones like Facebook and Twitter exist, but what happens if something really bad happens to their backend? 

Both people and companies have invested a lot of time and efforts into these platforms, but what happens if it really does all disappear?

I don't have a viable answer for this question, but it something people should really think about it?

Cheers,

Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

almost 6 years ago

Corrie Davidson

Corrie Davidson, Social Media Manager at Sisarina, Inc

And what happens the company's website goes down or the phone systems are screwy or you hire a bad customer service rep? 

While I see your point of "not putting all your eggs in basket" and agree that any campaign should be spread across multiple platforms, not investing in an excellent tool like Twitter because it has its problems (this is not the first time followers/follow numbers have zeroed out and then been fixed) seems... silly. 

Think of the early days of TV advertising, or internet advertising. Companies pay for focus groups, send samples in the mail, spend tons of money on "one-offs". I don't see using Twitter (which is free) as all that different from other marketing campaigns. 

Even if Twitter were to disappear tomorrow, if you did your job right, those followers will connect with you through the next platform or will remain loyal to your brand. 

Twitter is a tool. Use it to connect people to your brand, to draw them to your website where you can capture contact info. Never rely on one tool completely or you are setting yourself up for failure ANYWAY. 

almost 6 years ago

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Katherine Davids, Student at Hult International Business School

I think that the real danger is that the brands don't control their data, the platforms do. If the platform fails, the data and strategy is lost. This is the same problem as using the "cloud" though. If the gains outweigh the risks, it's a good idea. If not, it's a bad idea. Basically, I think Rob and Meghan have it right. The social media platforms should support the platforms that you have control over, like the blog or website.

almost 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Corrie,

And what happens the company's website goes down or the phone systems are screwy or you hire a bad customer service rep?

When your website goes down, the people who you pay to run it fix it. Same is true with the phone systems. In both cases, most companies have a contractual, monetary relationship with one or more service providers or employees. Many service providers, of course, offer SLAs. They screw up and you're compensated.

Hire a bad customer service rep? You fire them.

Twitter gets buggy? Foursquare goes down? It doesn't matter how much you've invested in these platforms -- these companies have no contractual obligation to you.

Again, I'm not saying that brands should ignore platforms like Twitter because there is risk. There is always risk. But what brands shouldn't ignore is the common sense notion of risk management.

almost 6 years ago

Corrie Davidson

Corrie Davidson, Social Media Manager at Sisarina, Inc

I agree and think I stated a similar thought in my post- use platforms like one of many tools in your belt, but don't trust your whole marketing campaign to one medium.

My point was that there is danger in everything and if you avoid technology because you fear it will fail, you will lose out on the benefits as well. I am NOT advocating jumping on board every new and trendy thing - I am just warning of fear-based decisions.

If Twitter or foursquare goes down, it doesn't make your brand look bad- its a platform crash that affects millions of people. If you hire a bad employee who treats people terribly, that may be the only experience with your brand people have - and the only chance they give you. 

almost 6 years ago

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media platforms

yes you are right,Brands are increasingly spending real money building up and maintaining their social media presences.

over 5 years ago

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bangalore escorts

Yes, why not. every big brand using social media to communicate everybody in the world.

about 5 years ago

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