Irfan Kamal May 25th, 2012
Twitter has been nothing short of a world phenomenon, popular in countries around the world and an undisputed factor in significant political change – and a star for customer service. It continues to grow rapidly, with a recent emarketer study projecting Twitter growth up to 4x higher than Facebook (on a lower base) in 2014. And, there are many of us who greatly value the discovery and connections we achieve through Twitter.
Our own research suggests exposure to social content has a significant impact on brand perception and sales impact (2-7x increased probability of purchase lift based on a restaurant study). So, the general outlook for social content is bright.
Yet even with its success in some high visibility areas and its fantastic growth, it just doesn’t seem like Twitter has quite hit its stride yet. It has been overshadowed by Facebook and – at least for now – new entrants like Pinterest.
- It’s the #2 social network based on visits, but its current total user active user base is still much lower than Facebook’s (about 1/6 of Facebook in the US, according to eMarketer)
- Engagement is low — monthly average time spent on Twitter (36 minutes) is 91% lower than time on Facebook (6 hours 33 min) and 54% lower than Pinterest (1 hour 17 min), according to Mediabistro/Statista
- As a partial result of this (and probably as a result of other factors such as ad tools and analytics), monetization has lagged, with estimated 2011 revenues of $139.5 million (eMarketer), or about 1/25th of Facebook’s $3.71 billion actual 2011 revenues (S-1 filing).
It seems that these issues are among those threatening Twitter’s ability to increase its momentum with brands and organizations.
The Way Forward
Based on the data above, some of our own research, and some thinking based on work with brands, it appears that there are 3 steps that could make a dramatic difference for Twitter:
- Provide more business impact data. With their focus on engagement, Twitter’s analytics don’t demonstrate business value for brands (both for paid and earned engagement). Facebook has built a useful brand lift analysis partnership with Nielsen (although that focuses on paid). It would be phenomenal to see more Paid / Owned / Earned analytics around the core business impact areas of Reach, Positioning, Preference and Action/Sales.
- Create improved experiences around interests. The platform’s focus on a real-time stream of short data chunks has made it well suited for lighter engagement, as reflected in the time spent stats. It’s great for checking out what’s trending, or shooting a quick @reply to someone or Tweeting a customer service issue. What about creating more of an experience around interests – from kayaking to economics, it seems that there must be a better user experience for conversation and discovery around interests. And, yes, there’s unique value for brands and organizations if this happens.
- Improve the visibility of relevant Tweets. In our study, we saw a ratio of brand-related Tweet exposure that was significantly below that reported for Facebook brand-related stories, even when adjusted for the relative sizes of the active user bases. This isn’t the whole story, because there’s more brand activity on Facebook than Twitter, but it does make one wonder if there’s a way to improve Tweet visibility, or at least create better ways (word clouds? a squareified tree map? or just an Important Tweets view by using some signals like RTs?) to see the most relevant Tweets of the people one is following. Hopefully, some of those relevant Tweets would include brand or organization tweets.
In summary, there are some important analytics improvements that would be great to see. Additionally, it seems like discovery and engagement around interests are key underleveraged benefits of Twitter.
Twitter can and should build – and own – a better experience for all of its customers around interest graphs.