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.